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Bill to Temporarily Reinstate Immunization Program Passes Senate Unanimously

(Juneau) – Legislation to temporarily restore decreased funding to the Alaska Immunization Program was passed unanimously by the State Senate today. House Bill 310 was sponsored by Bethel Rep. Bob Herron. Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Donald Olson, D-Nome, co-sponsored a companion bill in the Senate (SB 144) to accomplish the same outcome for the Alaska Immunization Program.

The program, championed by the late Sen. Ted Stevens, was cut from $4.3 million in FY2010 down to a mere $700,000 for FY2013.

“There is widespread bipartisan support for the immunization program, in the House and Senate, and throughout both rural and urban Alaska,” said Sen. Giessel. “I appreciate the strong support these bills have received from healthcare providers, clinics and hospitals, as well as senior organizations.

“In addition to my co-sponsor, Dr. Donny Olson, I want to thank Rep. Herron for his hard work in sponsoring the House version and shepherding it through the committee process. I would also like to recognize Rotary International for that organization’s continuing, decades-long efforts to eradicate Polio in the few countries where it still exists. Our goal of healthy Alaskans, children and adults, is embraced by all Alaskans.”

The reductions in funding have forced the program to reduce delivery of vaccines to children throughout the state, and completely discontinue those recommended for adults. HB 310 temporarily substitutes state funding for the decrease in federal funding through FY2015.  This action will give the State time to find a long-term solution to making vaccines available to Alaskans and ensuring adequate immunity.

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