An estimated 10 million cases of vaccine preventable diseases and 33,000 deaths are prevented each year through timely immunization. However, for those not immunized, approximately 43,000 adults and 300 children in the United States die annually from vaccine-preventable diseases or their complications. Despite high immunization coverage levels for preschool-aged children, pockets of need remain among uninsured or under-insured adults who are recommended to receive vaccines.
Immunization infrastructure is crucial, especially when public health priorities can shift rapidly in the event of an outbreak of a vaccine-preventable disease or a bioterrorism event. Managing immunization resources to deal with urgent events or unanticipated shortages pose challenges to state programs. As evidenced by the 2014-2015 measles outbreak, the worst on record since the Vaccines for Children program was established in 1994, the 317 program is critical in funding the surveillance, epidemiology and laboratory capacity to track the disease and ensure contacts of infected patients are immunized.
Authorized under Section 317 of the Public Health Service Act, federal funding for the 317 grant program was launched in 1963. Forty-two years later, in 2005, CDC awarded $431 million in federal grants to state, local, and territorial public health agencies for program operations and vaccine purchase. Currently there are 64 grantees: all 50 states, six large cities, and eight territories and former territories.
The majority of Section 317 program funds, over 75%, are used to support critical infrastructure functions such as vaccine effectiveness studies, disease surveillance, outbreak detection and response, vaccine coverage assessment, vaccine safety and provider education programming. A smaller portion supports vaccine purchases for adult immunization programs.
The Section 317 grant program works to ensure that children, adolescents, and adults receive appropriate immunizations by partnering with healthcare providers in the public and private sectors. The program helps assure the implementation of effective immunization practices and proper use of vaccines to achieve high immunization coverage, and supports infrastructure for essential activities such as immunization registries, outreach, disease surveillance, outbreak control, education, and service delivery. A strong immunization infrastructure ensures optimal coverage with routinely recommended vaccines.