By Lisa Schnirring, Staff Writer
(CIDRAP News) – A federal vaccine advisory group meeting in Washington, DC, today unveiled a new national vaccination strategy for the next decade and reviewed the latest information on influenza vaccination in the first year of a new universal recommendation.
The first day of the 2-day National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC), which advises the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), mainly focused on the release of the new vaccine plan and influenza vaccine updates. The meeting was broadcast live in HHS Web video and audio links.
Committee members heard from several groups involved in flu immunization activities, who said uptake rates seem to be maintaining a rise seen during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic months, while raising concerns about what will happen next flu season without federal economic stimulus money to help support vaccine purchase and administration.
The 43-page vaccine plan, the first since 1994, spells out goals for improving the nation’s vaccine system by addressing research and development, supply, financing, distribution, safety, global cooperation, and decision making among consumers and healthcare providers. It incorporates input from public health and medical experts, officials from different levels of government, and the public.
It also lists 10 implementation priorities, which include items such as prioritizing domestic and global vaccine targets, strengthening the scientific base for developing and licensing new flu vaccines, and enhancing the vaccine safety system.
A series of regional stakeholder meetings scheduled for spring and summer is designed to flesh out strategies to implement the goals, the HHS said today in a press release.
Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, who is HHS assistant secretary for health and director of its National Vaccine Program Office, said in the press release that the plan sets out a 10-year vision for more effectively preventing infectious diseases and reducing adverse vaccine reactions. “The plan is national in scope. Implementation will require a well-organized effort among stakeholders, including federal, state and local policymakers, health care providers, manufacturers, academia, philanthropic organizations, and the public,” he said in the statement.
The HHS said the strategy’s final implementation plan will be completed by the end of 2011.
During the part of the NVAC meeting that focused on this season’s flu vaccination activities, Cindy Weinbaum, MD, MPH, associate director of immunization services at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said a record 163 million doses have been distributed this season and manufacturers produced and shipped it quickly, which has smoothed the road for immunization activities.
Federal health officials are watching flu vaccine uptake closely this year to see if rates achieved during a pandemic season will carry over to a more traditional flu season and if a more simplified universal immunization recommendation will have an effect on vaccination rates.
The CDC’s internal weekly surveys so far show that rates for the seasonal flu vaccine are trending higher than last year among children. Preliminary data also show that last year’s gains are being maintained with adults, healthcare workers, and pregnant women.