WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to protect public health, U.S. Senator Jack Reed today announced $2,267,054 in federal funding for immunization and vaccine programs this year for children in Rhode Island.  Overall, the U.S. Health and Human Services Department's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expects to award the Rhode Island Department of Health (RIDOH) about $11.3 million over the next five years.

The federal funds will be used to improve immunization levels for young people and help eliminate vaccine-preventable diseases among children in Rhode Island.  According to RIDOH, this funding helps get recommended vaccines (including flu vaccine) to Rhode Island health care providers at no cost.  Health care providers then vaccinate eligible patients who do not have to pay for the cost of the vaccine.  The federal funds may be used to vaccinate uninsured children, under-insured children, and children on Medicaid at no cost to the patient.

“Vaccines are safe, effective, and lifesaving.  I am pleased that Rhode Island is a national leader in increasing vaccination rates and preventing many diseases from spreading.  This grant will help parents protect their kids and continue the success of Rhode Island's immunization program,” said Senator Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee who has written legislation to remove barriers to immunization by expanding coverage to include all routine vaccines and eliminating cost-sharing to make them more affordable.  “Rhode Island is not immune from the threat of a measles outbreak, but our high vaccination rate of young people is the best line of defense and has health benefits for the entire community.”

Rhode Island’s immunization rates are among the highest in the country for young children and teenagers, and the state was recognized by the CDC last year for being among the top states in the nation for childhood vaccination rates.

“The immunization efforts that this funding supports are critical parts of our public health response to infectious diseases and are key to our work to give every person in every ZIP code in Rhode Island an equal opportunity to be healthy,” said Ana Novais, Deputy Director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “Countless children have been spared the serious health consequences of many diseases because Rhode Island communities are so well vaccinated. This funding will help us continue this vital work and remain a national leader.”

In 2000, the CDC declared measles “eliminated” (absence of continuous disease transmission for greater than 12 months) from the United States.  However, this year, the number of U.S. measles cases hit a 25-year high and vaccine misinformation has spread rapidly online and through social media, stoking unfounded fears about the safety of vaccines.

According to RIDOH, vaccines are the best way to prevent serious illness and death from many infectious diseases. Vaccines protect people by preparing their immune systems to recognize and fight these diseases. Vaccines also protect communities by reducing the spread of illness.

The state provides health care providers throughout Rhode Island with all of the vaccines that the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends that children receive through 18 years of age.  Rhode Island also provides health care providers with all recommended vaccines for adults. Although some health care providers may charge patients small fees for vaccine administration, Rhode Island gives these vaccines to health care providers free of charge.

Additionally, the Rhode Island Department of Health works with mass immunizers, schools, health care providers, and many others to make vaccine available at community clinics.