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Vaccines for Children Program — saving thousands of lives

Despite the memes and facts about the United States’ backward healthcare system, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program is one unfettered success. This Federal program provides free vaccines to any US child who otherwise would have no access to vaccines.

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.

woman and three children playing water
Photo by Yulianto Poitier on

What is the Vaccines for Children Program?

Despite the false claims of anti-vaccine activists, 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.

During this period, in California alone, researchers discovered that a 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 of 1993 (OBRA) on August 10, 1993, creating the Vaccines for Children Program. President Bill Clinton, who strongly supported the program, signed the bill into law on the same day. 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 administered by the CDC and is fully funded by the Federal Government. The CDC purchases the vaccines at a significant discount directly from the vaccine manufacturers and then distributes 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.

Vaccines for Children Program providers, 2021.

Children, 18 years or younger, are eligible for the program if they meet one or more of the following criteria:

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. Moreover, many private healthcare plans also cover vaccines for adults and seniors, but these are not covered by the Vaccines for Children Program.

The VFC makes certain that lifesaving vaccines are free to anyone who needs the vaccine.

What vaccines are covered?

The Vaccines for Children Program covers the following vaccines, as recommended by ACIP:

What does this all mean?

All of the recommended vaccines for babies, children, and teens are available at no charge from private insurance, ACA insurance plans (aka Obamacare), 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.

The Vaccines for Children Program has been an amazing success. In 2022 alone, the CDC distributed over 71.5 million vaccine doses through the VFC program.

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 healthcare 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 healthcare to all citizens.

For most children, vaccines are available and free through the Vaccines for Children Program, through their parents’ insurance, or Medicaid. No child in the USA should lack access to vaccines. Unfortunately, many will slip through the cracks of this country’s healthcare system.


Michael Simpson
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