Underinsured Children Have Less Access To Vaccines

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Underinsured Children

Underinsured U.S. children have less access to recommended vaccinesthan uninsured children, according to a study published on Wednesday inthe Journal of the American Medical Association, USA Today reports. According to the study -- led by Grace Lee, a pediatric infectious-disease specialist at Harvard Medical School -- an estimated 14% of U.S. children are underinsured.

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Underinsuredchildren can purchase vaccines from private physician offices or obtainthem at no cost from federally qualified health centers or rural healthclinics, provided that they live near such facilities. In addition,states can provide vaccines to private physicians who treatunderinsured children at public health clinics, but the study foundthat many states do not purchase newer, more expensive vaccines.

Thestudy estimated that 2.3 million underinsured children cannot purchasemeningococcal vaccines from private physician offices and that 1.2million cannot obtain the vaccine at public health clinics (Manning, USA Today,8/8). Lee said, "Health insurance plans are not necessarily keeping upwith the new vaccines, posing significant ethical dilemmas to publichealth clinics" (AP/Wall Street Journal, 8/8).

In an editorial that accompanied the study, Matthew Davis of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policyat the University of Michigan wrote that the lack of availableinformation on public demand for newer vaccines has prompted localhealth officials to make their own decisions about which vaccines topurchase. Davis wrote that he supports "making prioritization ofvaccines more explicit and consistent," rather than "continuing aprogram in which de facto prioritization" leads to inconsistencies.

Lance Rodewald of the National Immunization Program at CDC said, "We'd much rather see the financing system get fixed rather than turn to prioritization" (USA Today, 8/8).
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