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Vaccine Excise Program Is Critical for Public Health | Commentary

On an August night in 1998, our 15-month-old baby girl almost died. Shortly after receiving her measles, mumps and rubella vaccination, she developed a fever that we thought was either a normal response to the shot or possibly a summer virus. It seemed like any ordinary hot, humid Sunday evening in Kentucky.

Our concern turned to panic in an instant when our baby girl suddenly went into a seizure and then stopped breathing. Paramedics arrived in minutes to help revive her. That terrifying event was our introduction into the world of federal policy related to vaccines.

The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 established the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program during a time when more and more vaccine manufacturers were leaving the market because of litigation concerns. The VICP established a “no fault” system for compensating injuries or death caused by vaccines. Under this system, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, sitting without a jury, determines the appropriate compensation for those injured by vaccines used in children.

The VICP is funded through a vaccine excise tax. This tax has existed since the program’s inception. Unfortunately, in the case of seasonal flu vaccine, the excise tax law is outdated, not covering the newest vaccines (quadrivalent vaccines).

Recently, some have claimed that technical legislation updating the VICP excise tax to include quadrivalent vaccines is somehow a new tax on vaccines. This is 100 percent incorrect. The technical legislation (HR 475 and S 391) updates the VICP so that the newest vaccines will now be covered. This technical legislation will not raise taxes; rather, it facilitates the inclusion of a key new vaccine in the program, providing a clear and equitable process to compensate affected families.

By the grace of God, my daughter recovered quickly and we did not need to use the VICP system, but the experience opened our eyes to the important systems and protections for the recipients of the vaccines that most Americans take for granted. Congress should immediately pass this important public health legislation, and the American public should thank Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah, and Reps. Jim Gerlach, R-Pa., and Richard E. Neal, D-Mass., for their leadership on this bill.

Former Rep. Geoff Davis, R-Ky., works for Republic Consulting LLC.

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