Dec 4, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) yesterday released a draft of its national vaccine strategy, which, once finalized, will serve as the federal government's game plan for guiding its policy decisions on infectious disease vaccine.
The 85-page report, dated Nov 26, is intended to update the nation's vaccine plan, which was mandated by Congress and first released in 1994, according to the report.
In a letter accompanying the draft, Joxel Garcia, MD, MBA, assistant secretary for health at HHS, wrote that the next step involves extensive input on the plan from the public, the vaccine industry, and other stakeholders. He added that HHS's goal is to finalize the plan by late 2009.
"This input will also enable us to develop an implementation plan with discrete activities and measurable milestones," wrote Garcia, who is also director of the HHS's National Vaccine Program.
Though the efforts across several federal departments mostly or fully achieved all of the 1994 vaccine plan goals, many of the same challenges remain, the report said. For example, vaccine shortages still crop up, and immunization rates for high-risk groups fall below their ideal levels.
"Additionally, emerging and pandemic infections and bioterrorist threats pose new challenges for vaccine development and regulation, manufacturing, vaccine delivery, and access in the US and abroad," the report notes. It also states a need to pursue a cross-protective vaccine for influenza.
The draft plan was coordinated by the National Vaccine Program Office and reflects the input of several federal agencies. The plan addresses five broad goals:
- Develop new and better vaccines
- Enhance vaccine and immunization safety
- Assist the public, providers, and policy makers with vaccine decisions
- Ensure vaccine supply and uptake of existing vaccines
- Boost global efforts to curb vaccine-preventable disease and deaths
The report acknowledged that specifics about pandemic vaccines and countermeasures for biological attacks are included in other federal plans. However, the draft plan spells out the need to organize, practice, and evaluate mass vaccination activities for disease outbreaks, biological attacks, and pandemic-related scenarios for the workforce and members of the public. It also includes efforts to ensure vaccine supplies and look for health problems related to vaccines.
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) is holding workshops with stakeholders and other groups to discuss each of the plan's goals. The IOM hosted its first meeting on Dec 1 in Irvine, Calif., to discuss the plan's first goal, the development of new and better vaccines.
After completing the workshops, the IOM said it would prepare a report detailing conclusions and priority recommendations.
Background on IOM participation in vaccine plan feedback