NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Critics Question Vaccines For Children Program

October 3, 1995

Republicans want to kill the year-old federal Vaccines for Children program. Critics call it a classic boondoggle: costly and growing fast, wasteful and unproven, and even the Administration's Department of Health and Human Services admits the program's failures.

Prior to the Vaccines for Children program, immunization rates for pre-school children were already at 90% of the national goal for 1996. Studies show that financial barriers are not a factor in the cases of unvaccinated children. Rather it is a problem of missed opportunities - visits to providers during which children are not vaccinated.

Under the program, the government buys the vaccines at steep discounts and gives them to public health clinics and private physicians which, in turn, furnish them free to children whose parents are uninsured, underinsured or on Medicaid. The effect has been to nationalize the vaccine industry.

  • Before the program began, the government controlled 50% of the vaccine market - now it controls 80%.
  • Existing vaccines are under price controls; prices for new ones must be negotiated with the government.
  • The current $400 million program could grow to over $41 billion by 1997.
  • States' estimates of eligible children are routinely overstated, with some states actually certifying more children than live in the state.
  • Under the program, the government pays anywhere from 64% of private sector costs to as little as 18%.

Critics of the program fear that government monopolization of the market will have a chilling effect on research and development of new vaccines.

Source: John Merline, "A Classic Federal Boondoggle," Investor's Business Daily, October 3, 1995.


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