Deep federal spending cuts triggered by sequestration are set to rock vaccine development and administration in the U.S. and beyond. The White House warns that the cuts will limit the number of vaccines federal agencies buy from GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK), Merck ($MRK), Sanofi ($SNY) and other manufacturers.
With the March 1 deadline for an agreement having passed, multiple federal agencies involved in developing and delivering vaccines must now cut their budgets by Oct. 1. Nondefense spending at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is set to fall by $464 million, more than 8% of the budget, according to a White House report.
The cuts are expected to affect delivery of vaccines to children. State-by-state sequester reports by the White House suggest that more than 130,000 children will go unvaccinated against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and hepatitis B because of the reduction in federal spending. Last year's House subcommittee report was even more negative, estimating that 212,000 fewer kids will receive vaccinations.
Cuts to the Immunization Grant Program are behind the expected fall in vaccinations. CDC uses the fund to buy vaccines from several Big Pharma companies to deliver to low-income children. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius estimates the cuts mean CDC will be unable to buy 540,000 vaccines, Politico reports. Rep. Andy Harris, a Maryland Democrat, said this week the program would have faced even bigger cuts under President Obama's latest budget proposal.
A coalition of 25 nonprofits is also concerned about the impact of cuts on vaccine development. In its 2013 report, the Global Health Technologies Coalition (GHTC) notes that U.S. funding for global health R&D has already fallen to $100 million below its 2009 peak. With sequester cuts poised to drag spending down further, the coalition fears that development of vaccines to tackle global diseases will falter.