Health Team

Study: Under-Insured Kids May Not Receive Newer Vaccines

Posted August 7, 2007 1:46 p.m. EDT
Updated August 7, 2007 6:07 p.m. EDT

Most kids hate shots, but the pinch of a needle can protect them from many serious diseases. However, according to a recent study, many families with health insurance cannot get certain vaccinations.

"By immunizing the children, you're not just protecting the children, but you're protecting their families and communities," said pediatrician Dr. Sean Paltrey.

In most states, including North Carolina, under-insured children are referred to public health clinics to get vaccinated. According to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, newer, more expensive vaccines may not be provided.

"Even if those kids were referred to public health clinics to receive vaccines, they couldn't receive them because states just didn't have enough funding available to provide these vaccines to these under-insured kids," said study author Dr. Grace Lee with the Harvard Medical School.

Lee said under-insured families often have to pay out-of-pocket for their children's vaccines. Most states lack the funding needed to provide them free of charge.

North Carolina is better off than most states. Vaccines required for school admission are free to uninsured or under-insured families, including pneumococcal immunization, unlike many other states. However, the story is different for the meningococcal vaccine.

"In 40 percent of states, they were unable to provide meningococcal conjugate vaccine, which can protect adolescents against meningitis," Lee said.

In North Carolina, the meningococcal vaccine targeting adolescents ages 11 to 12 is not required for school admission, so the state does not offer it for free. Some universities do require it for incoming freshman. If your insurance policy does not cover it, the out-of-pocket cost is more than $100.

Lee said the problem nationwide affects more than 1 million kids who seek the vaccine at public clinics. She said she hopes insurance plans and the government can find ways to make sure under-insured kids of all ages get the immunizations they need.