The United States of America is a great country, despite the ignoramus President currently in charge, but one of its contemptible failures is the lack of a comprehensive health care insurance for all citizens. Despite this, there is a ray of shining light that has saved hundreds of thousands of children’s lives – the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides free vaccines to children who otherwise have no access to them.
I was prompted to write this article because when I was reviewing some statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that showed a lot of unvaccinated children lacked healthcare insurance. This study showed that 17.2% of unvaccinated children were uninsured compared to 2.8% of all children. Looking at the data from another direction, over 7% of uninsured children were unvaccinated compared to only 1.0% of children on Medicaid and 0.8% of children on private health insurance.
The purpose of this article is to describe the Vaccines for Children Program and to give parents an important resource and information on how to make sure that their children are fully vaccinated against dangerous and deadly diseases.
What is the Vaccines for Children Program?
Despite the false claims of the anti-vaccine religion, there have been recent epidemics of vaccine-preventable diseases in the USA which have hospitalized and killed hundreds of children. During the late 1980s, there was a nationwide outbreak of measles in the USA which killed nearly 200 children. Over 90% of those children were not vaccinated.
In California alone, researchers discovered that the measles outbreak caused 3,390 hospital admissions and 75 deaths of children and young adults. Once again, the vast bulk of these individuals were not properly vaccinated.
As a result of this outbreak, the US Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) on August 10, 1993, creating the Vaccines for Children Program. The program was effective on 1 October 1994 as an entitlement for eligible children under the age of 18.
The Vaccines for Children Program is funded by the Federal Government, and those funds are allocated to the CDC. They purchase the vaccines at a discount directly from the vaccine manufacturers and then distribute them to state health departments along with certain local and territorial public health agencies. These health departments and agencies may vaccinate eligible children directly, or they may, in turn, redistribute the vaccines at no cost to private physicians and public health clinics that are registered as Vaccines for Children Program providers.
Children, 18 years or younger, are eligible for the program if they meet one or more the following criteria:
- Medicaid-eligible, although children covered by Medicaid can receive vaccines through that program
- American Indian or Alaska Native
The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), better known as Obamacare, mandates providing Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP)-recommended vaccines at no cost-sharing for children and adults up to the age of 26 years. However, many healthcare plans also cover vaccines for adults.
If you or someone you know is at the economically-challenged end of our society, vaccines are free for children. You can contact your local health department to get the vaccines. Or find a physician or clinic that is registered with the Vaccines for Children Program. Or, use Medicaid to get vaccines if you qualify. Or get Obamacare.
Of course, all of that may be easier said than done.
What vaccines are covered?
The Vaccines for Children Program covers the following vaccines, as recommended by ACIP:
- Tdap for diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), and tetanus
- MMR for measles, mumps, and rubella
- Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human papillomavirus
- Varicella zoster (chickenpox)
What does this all mean?
Basically, all of the recommended vaccines for babies, children, and teens are available at no charge from private insurance, ACA insurance plans, Medicaid, or the Vaccines for Children Program. This program has probably prevented over 700,000 deaths according to CDC research. Let’s repeat that for those who think that vaccines are useless – the Vaccines for Children Program. has saved over 700,000 children’s lives since the program began. America may not do much right with healthcare, but this one worked.
Of course, this program is not perfect, and it may not reduce the non-vaccination rate to 0%. Some children may not have access to health care providers who can give the vaccines. For example, many rural areas lack healthcare access for the poor, so vaccinations may just not be feasible – that’s not a failure of the program, it’s a failure to provide adequate health care to all citizens.
But what I want to make clear is that for most children, vaccines are available and free through the Vaccines for Children Program, through their own insurance, or through Medicaid. No child should lack access to vaccines, although many will slip through the cracks of this country’s healthcare system.
- Dales LG, Kizer KW, Rutherford GW, Pertowski CA, Waterman SH, Woodford G. Measles epidemic from failure to immunize. West J Med. 1993 Oct;159(4):455-64. PubMed PMID: 8273330; PubMed Central PMCID: PMC1022280.
- Gindler J, Tinker S, Markowitz L, Atkinson W, Dales L, Papania MJ. Acute measles mortality in the United States, 1987-2002. J Infect Dis. 2004 May 1;189 Suppl 1:S69-77. PubMed PMID: 15106092.
- Whitney CG, Zhou F, Singleton J, Schuchat A; National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, CDC. Benefits from immunization during the vaccines for children program era – United States, 1994-2013. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2014 Apr 25;63(16):352-5. PubMed PMID: 24759657.
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