Advisory committees have the potential to play a critical role in decision making and implementation at the state level. Many states have advisory committees for their immunization programs to assist in decision making on topics such as implementing new vaccines in their states, school and childcare requirements and exemptions and addressing concerns about vaccine safety.
This article describes how immunization advisory committees work; their roles, formation, organization, and structure; membership; the issues they address; and their benefit to state immunization programs.
In 2011, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, conducted an online survey of immunization program managers to determine which states have immunization advisory committees, how these committees function, and the perceived benefits of the committees to state immunization programs. Follow-up half-hour telephone interviews were conducted with 5 states to gain in-depth information on specific advisory committees.
One hundred percent of states and 3 territories responded, giving an overall response rate of 91%. Thirty-four of the 53 respondents (64%) reported having an advisory committee for immunization issues. Membership is composed of physicians, public health representatives, and nurses as well as public advocates and members of the public. States reported a variety of issues their committee has worked on; the most frequently mentioned issue was school and childcare vaccination requirements. Others included immunization information systems and vaccination of health care personnel.
Overall, states with immunization advisory committees reported that the committees were helpful on issues faced by the program and worth the time and monetary commitment. Given the reported benefits of state immunization advisory committees and the complex program and policy decisions that states face in the dynamic immunization environment, additional states may want to consider establishing immunization advisory committees.