The Clinton Administration last week outlined a massive immunization plan under which the federal government would purchase enough vaccines to immunize every child in the nation and distribute them at no charge to health clinics, private doctors, and selected hospitals.
The "comprehensive child-immunization act of 1993,'' which was introduced by six lawmakers last week on behalf of the Administration, aims to insure that all children, regardless of income, are vaccinated for nine childhood diseases by age 2.
The existing federal vaccination program funds a limited selection of vaccines for a limited number of poor children. Currently, fewer than 60 percent of preschool-age children receive all recommended vaccinations.
The Administration hopes to establish a universal vaccine-purchasing program and distribution network by fiscal 1995. The bill would also create a national tracking system to maintain a record of every child's immunization history.
The Administration estimates that the entire initiative would cost $1 billion a year when fully implemented.
Secretary of Health and Human Services Donna E. Shalala, along with lawmakers and Marian Wright Edelman, the president of the Children's Defense Fund, unveiled the plan at a news conference last week.
Ms. Edelman said the program would probably include school clinics as delivery sites for vaccinations.
President Clinton included $300 million in his "economic stimulus'' package to immediately beef up the existing vaccination program and fund outreach efforts to educate parents about the importance of vaccines. That supplemental-spending bill was being considered by the Senate last week. (See story, page 27.)
The Clinton Adminstration will seek $68 million in new funds for science and mathematics education as part of a proposed $240 million increase in the National Science Foundation's budget.
Foundation officials unveiled their proposed $3.2 billion fiscal-1994 budget, an 8 percent increase over current spending, at a press conference last week. The budget for the N.S.F.'s education and human-resources directorate would increase by 14 percent, to $556 million.
Programs slated for funding increases include efforts to expand the numbers of women, minorities, and disabled persons in science and engineering, and systemic-reform initiatives, including an urban systemic initiative that is to begin this year.
Four House select committees--including the Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families--expired last week.
In response, nine women representatives, led by Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., who had chaired the panel on children, urged creation of a permanent committee with jurisdiction over a range of children's issues. Their proposal was outlined in a letter to the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress, a temporary panel that is studying the committee structure.
If "major streamlining efforts are pursued,'' Ms. Schroeder proposes that the current Education and Labor Committee be replaced by a committee on "human resources,'' with a broader jurisdiction that would include family-support programs, such as child care and welfare, currently under the jurisdiction of the Ways and Means Committee. The panel would have a subcommittee on children.
If a lesser restructuring is anticipated, Ms. Schroeder wrote, the Education and Labor subcommittees on Human Resources and Select Education could be combined so that one panel would have jurisdiction over early-childhood programs, child abuse, child nutrition, and disability issues. She also proposed a new subcommittee under the Energy and Commerce Committee to oversee child-health programs.
The select committees, which had no legislative authority, were intended to highlight issues that cut across the jurisdictions of the permanent committees. Critics seized on the current budget-cutting climate to argue against extending them, usually a routine matter, and a measure to authorize the Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control was defeated in January. The select panels on hunger and on aging also expired last week.