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Vaccine Gap for Underinsured Children

Limited Funding Hampers Vaccination of Underinsured Children, Study Shows
By
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Aug. 7, 2007 -- Underinsured children may be going without recommended vaccines due to limited federal and state funding, a new study shows.

Kids who are underinsured for immunization come from families with private health insurance that doesn't fully cover vaccination costs.

The new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, is based on information provided by state immunization program managers during 2005 and 2006.

The researchers included Grace Lee, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care.

First, Lee's team interviewed nine immunization program managers. Based on those interviews, the researchers sent surveys to immunization program managers nationwide, 48 of whom completed the survey.

The states' funding and health care situations varied. But in general, the managers cited limited federal and state funding as the main reason why underinsured kids may not get vaccinated as recommended.

For instance, Lee and colleagues tracked recommendations for the chickenpox (varicella), pneumococcal disease, meningococcal disease, hepatitis A, and tetanus/diphtheria/whooping cough vaccines.

"None of the vaccines we studied was covered for all underinsured children in the United States," write the researchers.

Growing costs plus shrinking budgets add up to a vaccination gap for underinsured children, notes editorialist Matthew Davis, MD, MAPP.

"As the number of recommended vaccines and the prices of those vaccines increase, so too do the economic barriers to vaccination for underinsured children," writes Davis, who works at the University of Michigan's Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit.

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