A young woman gets her COVID-19 vaccine shot. (CTNewsJunkie Photo)
A young woman gets her COVID-19 vaccine shot. (CTNewsJunkie Photo)

Connecticut public health officials are bracing for a $1.3 million cut in federal immunization funding as a result of reductions to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant that funds child vaccine programs. 

The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in July that the CDC had informed state and local immunization managers of “significant” reductions in next year’s grant amounts. The cut comes as the agency grapples with a recently passed federal debt ceiling deal that reduced its funding by more than $1 billion. 

Here in Connecticut, those cuts are expected to amount to a $1.3 million reduction in funding for the state Immunization Program — about 17.4% of its total expected grant award for next year, according to Christopher Boyle, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Health.

Although the cut will not reduce funds to purchase vaccines for children, Boyle said it would impact funding for the state Immunization Information System. An effort to modernize and upgrade the information system known as IIS or CT WiZ is likely to be among the programs delayed as a consequence of less federal money, he said.

“As a result of the funding cuts to IIS funds, Immunization Programs will need to identify alternative funding sources and re-prioritize our activities,” Boyle said. “This process is just beginning, and we are seeking clarification from CDC on what other funding sources may be used and what important activities should be delayed as a result of the cuts.”

The information system, CT WiZ, helps the state comply with national rules requiring DPH to track the administration of immunizations and maintain accurate records of vaccinations. The database also helps patients, doctors, and parents keep track of which shots they and their children have received.

Asked about the cut during an unrelated press conference on Wednesday, Gov. Ned Lamont said Connecticut would find ways to make the program whole. 

“I’m concerned that it sends a tragic message. We know what a difference vaccinations make,” Lamont said. “That said, we’ll be ready to make up the shortfall as needed.” 

Boyle made similar comments on Monday, saying the Public Health Department would seek to return the grant to its prior funding levels in subsequent budgets. 

“DPH will work to minimize the impact to Connecticut residents by identifying alternate funding sources,” he said. “We will continue to work with CDC to restore funding to IIS in future years.”

The grant reductions come as national statistics on kindergarten vaccine coverage rates for things like measles, mumps, and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus, and polio slipped during the 2021-2022 school year to 93% from 94% during the preceding year and 95% the year before, according to the CDC. 

The percentage of Connecticut kindergarten students who were not in compliance with vaccine requirements dipped slightly during the 2021-2022 school year to 2%, down from 2.1% during the prior school year, according to state statistics

That out-of-compliance rate has yet to return to pre-pandemic levels. Between 2012-2013 and 2019-2020, the percentage of kindergarten students not in compliance ranged from 1% to 1.3%. In a report on vaccination statistics, the Public Health Department credited the steep increase recorded over the last two years to data collection complications brought on by the pandemic. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic likely impacted the ability of the schools to collect information needed to complete surveys, which would increase the number of students out of compliance and counted as unvaccinated,” the public health agency reported.