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Senator Giessel Sponsors Bill to Restore Vaccine Program Funding

SENATORS CALL FOR RESTORED VACCINE PROGRAM FUNDING

Bipartisan effort seeks return to Senator Ted Stevens Era levels for under-insured

Monday, December 5, 2011, Anchorage, Alaska – As the nation recognizes National Influenza Vaccination Week, a new related bill proposed by State Senator Cathy Giessel looks to restore Alaska’s universal immunization program, a small, but significant piece of former Alaska U.S. Senator Ted Stevens’ legacy.

Giessel, a Republican from Anchorage, wants to use state funds to make up for federal cutbacks in the state-provided Vaccines for Children Program and U.S. Public Health Service Act, the latter of which acts as a blanket to cover those not eligible for the children’s program.

“We’re seeking protection of Alaskans from contagious diseases, because we’ve lost the funding we used to receive thanks to Senator Stevens’ foresight and hard work,” Giessel said. “It’s important that we restore the money for vaccines to continue protecting citizens.” The late Senator Stevens secured the program more than 30 years ago, which distributes vaccines to recommended pediatric and adult providers in Alaska. Giessel said her office has received information from the state showing that thousands of under-insured Alaskans have benefited from the programs.

The funding for the vaccines has been declining since 2008’s peak funding year of $4.3 million. Annual decreases average $1.2 million, with the state forecasting just $700,000 in federal funds for 2013, and budgeting only $1.9 million for the current fiscal year.

Giessel estimates restoration costs of four to six million dollars. Costs will be refined by the Division of Public Health.

Senator Donny Olson, a Democrat from Nome, is the prime co-sponsor of Giessel’s bill, and said he supports the state spending filling-in to get back to the mid-2000’s levels as a matter of public safety and to cut back general public health risks. “We have to make sure we are doing everything we can to maintain immunization levels,” Olson said.

The bill will be given a number upon introduction once the legislature reconvenes in Juneau in mid-January.

National Influenza Vaccination Week information is available at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/.

The Alaska Dept. of Health & Social Services Division of Public Health administers the state’s immunization programs. Information is available at http://www.epi.alaska.gov/id/immune.stm.

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