Despite bureaucratic hurdles, the vast majority of pediatricians want to keep participating in a national program that provides vaccinations at no cost to children who are on Medicaid, uninsured, or who are American Indian/Alaska Native, according to researchers at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
The Vaccine For Children Program was created in 1993 to keep children from contracting vaccine-preventable diseases due to an inability to pay for the drugs. Since then, it has increased vaccination rates, decreased vaccine-preventable illnesses and reduced social and racial disparities among those inoculated.
The study, published online in the journal Pediatrics, examined pediatrician participation in the program.
WHAT’S THE IMPACT
The researchers sent surveys to 471 pediatricians, with 372 responding. They asked how many of the doctors participated in the program, the perceived burdens of taking part, their experiences and practices in stocking the vaccines and their views on a bigger reimbursement for giving the vaccine to Medicaid patients.
Yet when asked if they considered quitting the program in the past year, 85% said they had never seriously considered or discussed it. Another 10% said they had considered it but not seriously, and 5% reported seriously considering it.
Those who seriously considered opting out said the chief culprit was difficulty in record-keeping requirements. Other reasons included unpredictable vaccine supplies, inadequate payment for vaccine administration fees and keeping separate stocks of vaccines, requiring separate storage facilities.
But nearly all pediatricians surveyed said the program was valuable because they could give vaccines regardless of the patients’ ability to pay, children could get the vaccinations at their own medical provider’s office and it improved overall vaccination rates.
The authors recommend alleviating burdens where possible. That could include increasing payments for vaccine administration, uniform rules that allow borrowing between private and VFC vaccine stocks and creating incentive to buy proper storage and monitoring equipment.
THE LARGER TREND
Data from 20187 showed that providers and patients alike could save time and money if federal law is reformed to allow pharmacists to administer all vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The move would also make sense from a population health standpoint, since many people become sick, are hospitalized, or die from vaccine-preventable illnesses each year. In fact, about 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia each year, leading to 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths.
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