Ranking Member Ruiz’s Opening Statement at Second Select Subcommittee Hearing Assessing Vaccine Safety Systems

Mar 21, 2024
Press Release

Washington, D.C. (March 21, 2024)—Below is Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.’s opening statement, as prepared for delivery, at today’s Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic hearing assessing the nation’s vaccine systems—the second hearing in a two-part series focused on vaccine safety, surveillance, and injury compensation in the United States.

Opening Statement
Ranking Member Raul Ruiz, M.D.

Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic
Hearing on “Assessing America’s Vaccine Safety Systems, Part 2”
March 21, 2024

As we discussed during the first part of this hearing series, our nation’s vaccine safety systems play a critical role in protecting public health.

For decades, these systems—which operate everyday thanks to the tireless work of our nation’s scientists, physicians, and public health officials—have helped ensure that the safest and highest quality vaccines and medical countermeasures reach the American people, protecting us from the threat of deadly diseases.

And in the midst of a once-in-a-century public health crisis, these systems worked in tandem with a massive rollout of the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines—a campaign that allowed us to put the darkest days of the pandemic behind us.

Working together, our nation’s public health officials, physicians, and health care workers partnered to get shots in arms, including through federal initiatives and policies that increased availability and encouraged uptake.

At every step of the way, they were united in putting patients first.

And thanks to these efforts, we were able to safely reunite loved ones, turn the corner on the pandemic, and reopen schools, businesses, and workplaces.

In total, 3.2 million lives were saved, 18.5 million hospitalizations prevented, and an estimated $1.15 trillion in medical costs avoided.

And along the way, our vaccine safety systems functioned as they should by collecting a wide breadth of data that has overwhelmingly reaffirmed the safety and efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines while detecting safety signals for rare adverse events.

For example, during the pandemic, this system detected cases of thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome, or TTS, linked to the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

When the safety signals were identified, the CDC and FDA took swift action to update recommendations for vaccine products.

During last month’s hearing, we discussed this example as a case study of why it is so important that we continue to invest in our vaccine surveillance systems.

And we discussed the importance of ensuring that there are adequate compensation systems in place so that people who experience rare, yet serious adverse events can receive timely compensation and access the care they need.

By pursuing these two policies—robust vaccine surveillance funding and necessary reforms to our nation’s compensation programs—we can better prepare our nation for future public health crises and boost vaccine confidence in the process.

And in doing so, we will keep COVID-19 at bay and improve our defenses against a vast array of viruses that threaten our public health daily.

This work could not be more important than at this current moment.

You see, we are at a tipping point when it comes to vaccine confidence.

A recent survey conducted by the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania found that the number of Americans who viewed vaccines as less than effective has increased since April 2021.

Americans are also now less likely to consider getting the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccines than they were three years ago.

This is extremely troubling as we continue to see outbreaks of measles due to waning vaccination levels that threaten children’s health across the country.

In fact, the United States may lose our measles elimination status that we’ve held for the last 24 years.

We must correct course before it is too late.

Approaching each opportunity to discuss this topic with care, collaborating with community-based organizations on vaccine outreach, and strengthening access to care are all critical components of this work.

Just as critically important is continuing to work with physicians and health care leaders to enhance trust in public health.

As a physician, I understand that stronger collaboration between providers, patients, and policymakers is the key to solving the challenges in public health that we face.

So, I hope that today’s discussion fosters that collaboration, and that we come away from this discussion better prepared for the future.

I yield back.


118th Congress