Vaccines continue to be safe and offer the best protection against vaccine-preventable diseases.
In response to recent media coverage of improper storage of vaccines, it is important to note:
- The main concern with improper storage temperatures is that they can make vaccines less effective rather than less safe.
- Temperatures that are slightly higher or lower than the recommended range do not lessen the potency of affected vaccines (according to manufacturer data and WHO vaccine stability data). Children do not need to be revaccinated.
- There is every indication that vaccines are doing their job at providing protection against disease. The CDC monitors the diseases that vaccines prevent and can see that vaccines are doing their job; we see little vaccine-preventable disease in the United States.
- Recent outbreaks of measles and pertussis are not linked to less effective or ineffective vaccines. Cases of measles reported in the United States appear to be associated with unimmunized people and travel, not vaccine storage outside of recommended temperature ranges. Likewise, the primary factor in pertussis outbreaks seen in the U.S. appears to be waning immunity.
- Without vaccines, children are at risk for getting seriously ill and suffering pain, disability, and even death from diseases like measles and whooping cough.
Frequently asked questions
- What is the VFC program? The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a federally funded vaccine program, administered by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It provides free vaccines to:
- Uninsured children
- Medicaid eligible children
- American Indian children
- Alaska Native children
- Underinsured children seeking care at a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinic (RHC).
- More than 44,000 provider sites in all 50 states and U.S territories receive VFC vaccines every year. The program benefits an estimated 40 million children.
- What is a VFC Grantee? What do Grantees do? A VFC Grantee is an important partner in the VFC program. Grantees are state/territorial health departments and public health agencies that are funded by CDC that oversee the VFC program for their area. Grantees enroll health care providers in the VFC program to make sure a wide network of providers is able to vaccinate uninsured children and those whose insurance does not cover vaccines. The VFC program has 61 Grantees and more than 44,000 providers.
- Why are vaccines important as part of regular health care visits? Vaccines prevent infectious diseases that once killed or harmed many infants, children, and adults. Without vaccines, children are at risk for getting seriously ill and suffering pain, disability, and even death from diseases like measles and whooping cough. Many vaccine-preventable diseases are rare in the U.S. because we have been vaccinating against them for decades. Because some of these diseases are seen so infrequently in the U.S., some people think they do not need to vaccinate for them. However, vaccine-preventable diseases remain a threat. For example, last year there were more than 15,000 cases of measles in France, with potential for exportation across the globe, including to the U.S. This continuing threat was evident last year with 222 reported measles cases in the U.S, the highest number of cases since 1996 – without a high level of vaccinated people in the U.S. cases could have been much higher.
- Could the outbreaks of vaccine-preventable disease we are seeing in the U.S. be caused by the storage and handling issues identified in the report? There is a very low incidence of vaccine-preventable disease among people with age appropriate vaccinations, demonstrating that vaccination is effective. Investigation into the recent outbreaks of measles found the cases to be among unvaccinated people and not associated with vaccines storage outside of recommended temperature ranges. However, CDC is committed to improving vaccine storage and handling.
- Do the Inspector General’s (IG) findings raise concerns about the safety of vaccines being administered to children? The findings do not raise concerns about the safety of vaccines administered to children. The primary focus of the Inspector General’s report was on documentation/oversight issues and proper temperature storage for vaccines. The concern with improper storage temperatures is that they can make vaccines less potent rather than less safe. Post-licensure monitoring supports the safety and effectiveness of vaccines stored under “routine use” conditions. If parents have questions or concerns regarding their child’s vaccinations, they should speak to their child’s doctor or health care provider, or call the CDC for information at 1-800-CDC-INFO. A list of VFC state and territory coordinators can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/contacts-state.htm.
- Do I need to get my child revaccinated? Grantees/states handle recommendations regarding potential revaccination so it is important for providers to contact their grantee for proper guidance. In some cases, states/grantees may recommend revaccination in keeping with CDC’s General Recommendations. However, depending on the particular circumstances, revaccination may or may not be necessary or recommended. It’s important to keep in mind that while it is possible that some children have received less potent vaccines due to exposure to improper temperatures, our data do not suggest that this is a common or widespread problem. Our national monitoring suggests vaccines are performing as expected, and most diseases are at record low levels. Cases of measles reported in the United States appear to be associated with unimmunized people and travel, not vaccine storage outside of recommended temperature ranges. Likewise, the primary factor in pertussis outbreaks seen in the U.S. appears to be waning immunity. Parents concerned about the potency of the vaccines their child received are encouraged to speak with their providers regarding provider storage and handling of vaccines and whether revaccination is recommended based on the state grantee’s recommendations. If you have questions or concerns regarding your child’s vaccinations, please speak with your child’s doctor or health care provider, or call the CDC for information at 1-800-CDC-INFO. A list of VFC state and territory coordinators can be found at: http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/contacts-state.htm.
- Do the findings from this report mean the VFC program is not working? There is clear evidence that U.S. vaccination efforts, including the VFC Program, work extremely well. Efforts to prevent vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. are some of the most successful public health programs in the world. The VFC Program has 61 grantees and more than 44,000 provider sites who work together to provide more than 80 million doses of vaccines every year. With any program of such magnitude there are always opportunities to improve certain areas and CDC takes the recommendations in the report seriously. CDC views the Inspector General’s findings as an opportunity to strengthen and further improve what is already a very good program.