President Obama is proposing to scale back one vaccination program for poor families as more people are getting health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
Tucked away in his 2016 budget proposal is a line item that cuts $50 million from the so-called 317 program, which provides free vaccines to low-income children and adults, as well as funds infrastructure projects to expand access to vaccines.
The administration justifies the budget cuts—saying that many people who rely on the program now have access to coverage of some kind under the president’s health care law. So far, more than 10 million people have been covered under Obamacare. White House officials also said the proposed budget adds an additional $128 million to a separate program that provides vaccines to uninsured and Medicaid-eligible children.
Still, medical groups are not pleased with the proposal and say it’s a mistake to make significant cuts to the existing immunization program—especially given the measles outbreak, which has spread to more than 100 confirmed cases across 14 states.
"The president's budget misses an important opportunity to bolster the capacity of the nation's public health departments to prevent infectious disease outbreaks, including those that are vaccine preventable," said the National Association of County and City Health Officials Executive Director Robert M. Pestronk in a statement.
The White House’s proposed budget cuts to the vaccine program come a day after GOP presidential hopefuls New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) injected vaccines into the political debate ahead of 2016 by suggesting that parents should be able to choose whether or not to vaccinate their children. The remarks—which contrasted with Obama’s call for vaccinating kids—enraged the medical community, which overwhelmingly supports requiring children to be vaccinated in order to prevent outbreaks of deadly diseases.
The remarks, as many doctors feared, also gave ammunition to the anti-vaccine crowd, which believes vaccines are linked to autism, a theory that’s supported by exactly zero scientific evidence.
Since then, other likely presidential contenders have weighed in. Hillary Clinton tweeted out a call on parents to vaccinate their kids, hashtagging the message #grandmaknowsbest, while Sen. Marco Rubio released a statement saying all kids should be vaccinated—both expressing the sentiment shared by the majority of the country.
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times: