Freiden made his remarks while being questioned before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on Tuesday.
At the hearing, Rep. Andy Harris, M.D. (R-Md.) held up a letter from the White House stating, "Dr. Freiden, I have a great deal of concern about a document that my office got from the White House that talked about the cuts that were going to occur, due to Republicans, in affecting children. And I'm going to read their quote about vaccines for children. It says, in Maryland about 2,050 fewer children will receive vaccines due to reduced funding [through sequestration] for vaccinations of about $140,000. Did the CDC assist the White House in preparing that estimate?"
“I would have to get back to you on that,” Frieden said.
Harris appeared stunned that Frieden could not say whether his agency had been the source of the White House claim.
“You, as the director, don’t know if you assisted the White House in preparing an estimate that was distributed to every member of Congress?” Harris asked.
Frieden again claimed he did not know whether the figure came from the CDC.
“On that specific number, I would have to give you an accurate answer,” Frieden said, before being cut off by an angry Rep. Harris.
In a set of state-by-state “fact-sheets,” the White House claimed to be laying out the specific negative impacts of the sequestration spending cuts. In its Maryland paper, the White House claimed that 2,050 children could go without immunizations.
“In Maryland, around 2,050 fewer children will receive vaccines for diseases such as measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, whooping cough, influenza, and Hepatitis B due to reduced funding for vaccinations of about $140,000,” the White House said.
The administration has made several dubious claims about the effect of the sequester, including claims that teachers would be laid off, janitors at the Capitol would have their pay cut, and air travelers would face extreme wait times due to furloughs of security personnel.