An iconic image to Alaskans is that of the original Iditarod, a courageous journey to deliver urgently needed diphtheria serum from Nenana to Nome. Today, the state faces massive cuts in federal funding for the Alaska Immunization Program, such that last year it had to eliminate support for adult vaccination, and this year has started to limit support for childhood vaccination as well. Bipartisan Senate Bill 144, introduced by state Sens. Giessel and Olson, temporarily substitutes state funding for the decrease in federal funding through 2015, which provides time to find a long-term solution.
Vaccination is one of the greatest achievements of medicine. In the days of the Iditarod, the 1920s, there were 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria each year and 13,000 people died from the disease. In 2002, there was only one case of diphtheria in the United States.
We encourage Alaskans to contact their legislators and urge them to support this bill.
-- Marin Granholm, MD
president-elect Alaska Academy of Family Physicians