Legislature OK's Funding for Vital Immunization Program
A bill to reinstate the Alaska Immunization Program passed the 27th Alaska Legislature today with unanimous support from both the House and Senate.
House Bill 310 temporarily substitutes state funding through 2015 for the program’s sharply decreasing federal funding. Rep. Bob Herron, the bill’s sponsor, said that federal funds have been cut by 84 percent in just four years, leaving uninsured and underinsured Alaskans without basic preventative vaccines.
Vaccines control diseases such as whooping cough, lockjaw, pneumonia, meningitis, influenza, polio, and others – silently saving lives every day. “Prevention is key, and by far the best way to address these diseases,” Herron, D-Bethel, said.
HB 310 makes no changes to the historically federally funded program. It does not alter the list of vaccines required by the state for school attendance, or current medical and religious exemption policies. “It is simply a stop-gap measure to continue the program and provide life-saving vaccines to children and vulnerable adults for the next three years, while the state and its health care delivery partners assess the long-term needs and costs of the Alaska Immunization Program,” Herron said.
“I would like to thank everyone who has worked to support this bill, most notably Senators Cathy Giessel, an Advanced Nurse Practitioner, and Donny Olson, M.D., who sponsored the Senate version of this legislation,” Herron said. “This success is due in part to their vision and shared commitment to the health of all Alaskans.”
HB 310 now heads to Governor Parnell for his signature.