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Remarks to the National Vaccine Advisory Committee

Alex M. Azar II
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee
June 4, 2019
Washington, D.C.

We know that vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccines are some of the most tested medical products we have, and one of the most important public health tools ever developed.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for welcoming me here today.

I want to begin by thanking every member of this committee, for your service to the American people and to public health.

I’m also appreciative of all our staff at HHS who support the work of this committee, and appreciative of the interest we’ve seen from the general public and stakeholders in this meeting.

For more than 30 years, the National Vaccine Advisory Committee has helped inform the work of America’s public health professionals and healthcare practitioners in spreading the benefits of vaccines.

One of the reasons I’m here today is to encourage all of you to keep up that important work. On many fronts, we have a long way to go, and on some fronts, we may even be losing ground.

We know that vaccines are safe and effective. Vaccines are some of the most tested medical products we have, and one of the most important public health tools ever developed.

And yet, as all of you know—as all of you have no doubt already discussed today—the United States is now seeing the largest outbreak of measles since the disease was declared eliminated from our country.

We have also seen challenges when it comes to promoting other vaccinations, including adult vaccinations such as hepatitis, HPV, and the flu.

There are a number of reasons for these developments, but we are all in agreement about this: One of the reasons, and therefore one of the most pressing public health challenges our country faces, is vaccine hesitancy, driven in part by misinformation.

This is not just an issue for the United States. Two weeks ago, at the World Health Assembly, the U.S., the EU, and Brazil hosted what was maybe the most important and well-attended side event of the whole assembly, on how to address challenges around vaccine confidence.

The WHO named vaccine hesitancy one of the top 10 global health challenges for 2019. As I mentioned, I believe it is just as important for our country as a domestic public health issue, too.

This meeting and the work of this committee will help us understand the challenges we face and how we can address them. You have gathered here some of the premier experts on vaccination, and you’ve heard some firsthand testimony about effective responses to vaccine-confidence challenges and outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases.

You have important work ahead over the next year, including providing a comprehensive report and set of recommendations on addressing disparities in vaccine coverage in the United States.

I want to thank you for the work you have already been doing, and for the recommendations you voted on today to help lay the foundation for the next National Vaccine Plan, which must take into account the challenging situation we face.

This morning, Admiral Giroir charged you with updating your 2015 report on vaccine confidence. We need a broader understanding of this issue, and a more granular sense of the challenge we face with regard to vaccine hesitancy on particular vaccines and across different ages, and an updated report can help with that.

But we’re not waiting to take action, either.

This administration has an all-hands-on-deck strategy for tackling vaccine hesitancy and promoting vaccination. Last month, as we marked National Infant Immunization Week, HHS leaders undertook a huge media campaign, across the country, reaching tens of millions of Americans with messages around the safety and effectiveness of vaccines.

Our Assistant Secretary for Health, Admiral Giroir; our CDC Director, Dr. Redfield; our Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Jerome Adams; and many other HHS leaders have been working tirelessly to promote this message, traveling the country to affected communities.

The CDC has also been on the ground, working with public health departments to increase vaccination rates, prevent outbreaks, and respond to infections.

All of this work is going to continue, as part of a steadily increasing drumbeat of action, until we’ve turned around today’s troubling situation.

Your leadership, as advisers to HHS, will continue to guide our work.

In return, I commit to continuing to make vaccination one of the top public health priorities of HHS and of the entire Trump administration.

So thank you for your work today, and thank you for your ongoing commitment to keeping our families safe and healthy.

I wish you a productive day of work tomorrow as well, and thank you again for having me here today.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on June 4, 2019