The current system of supplying vaccines appears to be in a state of crisis. While immunization rates among children are high, there have been periodic shortages of vaccines. In addition, there are few incentives to develop new vaccines, and a declining number of manufacturers. That has raised concerns that we would not adequately be protected against potential bioterrorist attacks or future outbreaks of serious diseases. To address this crisis a recent report by the Institute of Medicine (IOM) calls for major changes in the current system of financing vaccine purchases. The IOM recommends a government mandate that all public and private health insurance programs cover vaccines, a voucher to uninsured individuals to assure their coverage, and government subsidies for vaccines based on an estimate of their value to society.
An eleven-person panel chaired by Duke University economist Frank Sloan devised the IOM report and its recommendations. Professor Sloan and panel members Sara Rosenbaum and Mark Pauly will present the report’s findings. The report’s conclusions will be assessed by three experts in the pharmaceutical and health insurance markets: AEI economist John Calfee; Christine Grant, vice president of AventisPasteur, a major vaccine producer; and Carmella Bocchino, vice president of the association of health insurers and health plans. The IOM report: Financing Vaccines in the 21st Century: Assuring Access and Availability is available online.