12/10/09 — Wayne County Health Department will charge for vaccines

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Wayne County Health Department will charge for vaccines

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 10, 2009 1:46 PM

Several vaccines for children will no longer be offered free through the Health Department, officials have announced.

The change, which went into effect Dec. 1, is being blamed on federal funding issues affecting the state's immunization program.

"They're getting less money for immunizations in the budget passed by the General Assembly," said Debbie Garner, immunization coordinator with the Wayne County Health Department. "More changes are likely to be announced prior to April 1."

Historically, any vaccine mandated by the state is supplied at no cost to the public.

The list of vaccines that will no longer be offered free to every child includes pediatric hepatitis A; Tdap (Tetanus, Diptheria and Pertussis, except for all sixth-graders, who will continue to receive it at no charge); the combination vaccine Pentacel (Diptheria, Tetanus, polio and Hib); combination vaccine Pediarix (Diptheria, Polio, Hepatitis B); combination vaccine Kinrix (Diptheria, Tetanus and polio); combination MMRV (measles, mumps, rubella and Varicella); and the second dose of Varicella (chickenpox).

The vaccines will be available free from the state to children in the federally-funded Vaccine for Children Program, for which there are eligibility requirements -- children up to age 18 eligible for Medicaid, those with no health insurance, and those categorized as American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Most impacted by the change will be those with insurance, forced to pay for vaccines.

That is already presenting a problem, Mrs. Garner said, particularly in cases where more than one dose is required.

"Parents used to get two Hep A's and now they have got to meet that criteria to get them free, Varicella, they're going to be able to get that first dose free but they need two -- they have to pay for that second," she said. "It's actually just those with insurance that have to pay."

With prices for vaccines ranging from $18 to $100, some families are simply unable to afford the cost and may opt not to have a child vaccinated as a result.

The situation also presents challenges for the Health Department, Mrs. Garner said.

"We can't just go ahead and purchase a bunch of (vaccinations) and have them on hand," she said. "We're already losing money on some that will soon expire."

Discussions are still being held at the local level that may provide families with other options, which could be announced in the upcoming months.

For more information, call 731-1272.