Vaccines for Children no longer offering free vaccines |

Vaccines for Children no longer offering free vaccines

Reid Tulley

Vaccines for Children, a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated due to inability to pay, will no longer be giving free vaccines to public health agencies, said Brene Belew Ladue, director of Grand County Public Health.

This will change the way the public health agency gives and charges for immunizations in Grand County in the future, she said during a report to the Grand County Board of County Commissioners last month.

Currently, the agency receives free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children Program. However, in the future the Grand County Public Health Agency may only be able to give vaccines to those on Medicaid, Medicare, or those who do not have health insurance.

This new policy may also prevent Grand County Public Health from giving immunizations at schools.

The change comes during a time when there has been a dangerous increase in the number of cases of whooping cough, or pertussis, in Colorado.

“We are alerting the public to an epidemic number of pertussis cases in Colorado and are urging Coloradoans to get vaccinated against pertussis,” said Dr. Chris Urbina, chief medical officer and executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, in a press release.

From Jan. 1 through Aug. 11, 2012, a total of 715 cases of pertussis have been reported in Colorado, compared to a 2007 to 2011 average of 158 cases during the same calendar period.

Grand County has seen no increase in cases of pertussis and only four cases were reported in the county during the years of 2003 to 2007, said Belew Ladue.

The largest number of cases of pertussis have been reported from Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, and Jefferson Counties.

While no deaths due to pertussis have been reported this year in Colorado, the infection is particularly dangerous to infants under 6 months of age and followed by infants 6 to 11 months and children 11 to 14 years.

“Infants are particularly susceptible to severe disease due to pertussis and have much higher rates of hospitalizations and deaths due to pertussis,” Urbina said. “Infants are too young to have received all of the doses necessary to protect against pertussis, so immunizing people who care for infants and who spend time around infants is key.”

Currently, Grand County Public Health has an annual $4,000 budgeted for the purchase of vaccine. It will cost at least $10,000 to buy vaccine in the future, Belew Ladue reported.

The Grand County Board of Commissioners will decide whether to fund the rest of the $6,000 needed to buy vaccines during the September Board of Health meeting.

Grand County Commissioner James Newberry commented that this cut in funding asks the public the question, “What do you want the government to provide?”

Belew Ladue said she will review the issue with the Grand County Rural Health Network’s Advisory Committee and ask for committee recommendations.

She will present any recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners who sit as the Board of Health in September.

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