Vaccines: A Critical Tool in Protecting and Promoting Public Health

By: Karen Midthun, M.D.

Vaccines are a critical tool in protecting and promoting the public health in the U.S. and around the world. The risks from childhood diseases like measles, mumps and polio have been greatly reduced, or in the case of polio, eliminated in the U.S. Vaccines are one of the great public health success stories of the 20th century.

Dr. Karen MidthunFDA is responsible for ensuring the safety and effectiveness of vaccines available for use in the U.S. Our lifecycle evaluation begins during the development stages and continues through approval and after the vaccines are on the market. As part of the Department of Health and Human Services, FDA is but one agency that plays an important role in developing and implementing the Department’s National Vaccine Plan. The plan outlines five goals:

  • Develop new and improved vaccines;
  • Enhance the vaccine safety system;
  • Support communications to enhance informed vaccine decision-making;
  • Ensure a stable supply of, access to, and better use of recommended vaccines in the United States;
  • Increase global prevention of death and disease through safe and effective vaccination.

A report on the work of FDA and its sister agencies in addressing these five goals – the State of the National Vaccine Plan – was recently issued by the Department’s National Vaccine Program Office. The report gives consumers, health care professionals and other stakeholders a look into the ongoing efforts of the various agencies, and how those efforts align with the plan’s vision of enhancing all aspects of vaccines and vaccination.

We at FDA are very proud of the work we do to ensure the safety, effectiveness, and availability of vaccines for the United States. The activities highlighted in the report offer a glimpse into this important work being done at FDA and across the Department – work that lies at the heart of our public health mission.

Dr. Karen Midthun is the director of FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research

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