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Time to Act on Childhood Immunization February 17, 2009

Posted by Nalini Padmanabhan in Prevention.

On January 8, U.S. Representative Gene Green of Texas introduced H.R. 323, the Comprehensive Insurance Coverage of Childhood Immunization Act of 2009. According to the U.S. Library of Congress, the bill would require individual and group health insurance plans to comprehensively cover childhood immunizations. The bill would apply to all plan beneficiaries (and dependents of beneficiaries) up to 18 years of age, without deductibles, coinsurance, or any other type of cost-sharing. It would cover all immunizations recommended by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).

If passed, H.R. 323 would bring private insurance coverage levels up to that of Vaccines for Children (VFC), a federal entitlement program that since its implementation in 1994 has covered the cost of all ACIP-recommended vaccines for uninsured, underinsured, and Medicaid-eligible children. Given the public health benefits of population-wide vaccination and the rising costs of completing the ACIP-recommended series of childhood immunizations, ensuring private coverage of vaccines would increase the overall percentage of the population able to access them.

And it’s timely, too. On Thursday, CNN and several other news outlets reported on a special court ruling on the supposed link between the childhood MMR vaccine and autism. According to the special court, there was insufficient evidence to prove the link. Whether this ruling ends the controversy or merely fuels the fire, the topic is back on the public agenda. The ensuing media coverage and the ruling itself could provide attention and, if properly leveraged, support to H.R. 323. Combined, the bill and the special court ruling could battle two of the major barriers to vaccination – fear and access. In turn, reducing fear and increasing access would help to further normalize immunization in the public eye, making people see it not as a threat or luxury, but as a routine and expected step in raising a child.



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