Wanted: New Vaccine Advisory Committee Members
HHS is looking for candidates with diverse areas of expertise.
The federal health department is looking for suggestions on who should serve on its vaccine advisory committee.
The National Vaccine Advisory Committee, established in 1987, advises Health and Human Services Department officials on disease prevention through vaccine development as well as prevention of adverse reactions to vaccines. There are 17 voting members on the committee (15 public members and two representatives from the vaccine manufacturing industry) who can serve up to four years.
“HHS makes efforts to ensure that the membership of federal advisory committees is balanced in terms of points of view represented and the committee's function,” said a notice published in the Federal Register last week. “[The Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy] seeks nominations of diverse individuals in the following disciplines/topic areas: vaccine innovation and/or research and development; vaccine safety; vaccine access and financing; health information technologies and immunization information systems; immunization program implementation and management; and vaccine communications.”
Submissions are due by June 24. Individuals who serve on federal advisory committees are considered “special government employees,” which means they are subject to ethics reviews to find if they have any conflicts of interest.
The advisory committee said in September 2019, before the start of the coronavirus pandemic, that “proliferation of online misinformation about vaccines is an example of how the immunization landscape has transformed since the release of the last [national vaccine plan] in 2010.” Additionally, “vaccination saves lives, but only if people trust that they are safe and effective, and agree to receive the vaccine,” said its report.
Indeed, vaccine misinformation and disinformation as well as vaccine hesitancy became pervasive issues during the pandemic.
In September 2020, members of the advisory committee sent then-Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir a letter urging “urge immediate action to take proactive steps to build public confidence in COVID-19 vaccine development, safety processes, approval, and recommendation criteria.” At the time, no vaccines were still being developed and there was much hesitancy about them for various reasons.
In June 2021, the advisory committee released a report on how to advance equity of immunizations, which said that, “[the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] current activities with COVID-19 vaccines may be a model for success and should continue to be funded to provide additional engagement for all [Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices]-recommended vaccinations in the future.”