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Closing the Vaccine-Coverage Gap for Uninsured Adults

A Vaccines for Adults (VFA) program should be created to close the vaccine-coverage gap currently existing among Americans without health insurance, CDC officials write in a Perspective article. Using the example of the Health and Human Services Bridge Access Program for Covid-19 Vaccines and Treatments in place through 2024, the authors maintain that “the fact that this program had to be created from scratch — with funding identified, contracts modified, and timelines and end points designated — speaks to the need for a sustainable, comprehensive vaccine program for uninsured adults, to provide protection against vaccine-preventable diseases for both eligible participants and the general public.”

A VFA program would be similar in scope and operation to the 30-year-old Vaccines for Children (VFC) program: “When fully implemented, the [VFA] program would offer free access to the 14 routine vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for roughly 23 million uninsured adults between 19 and 64 years of age (about 12% of working-age adults in the United States). It would also be a vehicle for enhancing coverage of vaccines that may be recommended in the future, such as those for respiratory syncytial virus, and could support responses to outbreaks of both known pathogens, such as meningococcal meningitis or hepatitis A, and unknown pathogens.”

The authors conclude: “The United States made enormous investments in vaccine development and distribution and in secure data collection during the Covid-19 pandemic. If we continue to move forward without access to vaccines, including long-term access to Covid-19 vaccines, for uninsured adults, we will neglect an important opportunity for advancing health and economic benefits in this population, which includes many essential workers, caregivers, recent college graduates, and others. Building on the success of the VFC program and associated discretionary funding supporting immunization infrastructure, the VFA program has the potential to be a low-cost, high-reward initiative that could help achieve the essential goal of ensuring vaccine availability throughout the life span.”

Source: New England Journal of Medicine