Immunization changes could be devastating to low-income families

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - Nearly every child who walks through the doors of the Amarillo Public Health Department to get their immunizations, depends on the state-funded program called "Texas Vaccines for Children."

Hector Mendoza with the public health department says, "We have been the safety net for a lot of families in the last 3 or 4 years. We've been that place where people can go and get their shots at a low rate. We can get them in pretty fast. However, unfortunately that's not the case anymore."

That's because state budget cuts have limited the availability of low-cost vaccinations to just families in the greatest need.

The new eligibility requirements say these vaccines will only be provided to children who have Medicaid, no insurance, are under-insured, or who are Native American or Native Alaskan.

Immunizations Coordinator Casie Stoughton explains, "Children who are fully insured will have to be vaccinated through their private physicians office and that vaccine will need to be billed through their insurance."

But many families who have insurance, still have a tough time affording immunizations for their children.

Which is why the new policy has many health officials concerned a tight wallet will cause a significant amount of kids to fall behind on their vaccines.

Mendoza explains, "That child may not be up to date on vaccines. When you have that lag in vaccination, that's a potential for exposure."

The good news is the vaccine cost for uninsured children will remain the same.

Stoughton says, "Here at the health department our fee is $5 for one shot, $10 for two or more."

Those with Medicaid will continue to receive shots for free.

Health officials say you should look over your insurance plan and see what it covers. Your child may qualify as under-insured.