Job loss or money woes can stress a family's finances, but these events can also have health implications if families must forego health care coverage. According to researchers from the National Immunization Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia, uninsured children are at greater risk of not receiving vaccinations on schedule compared with children continuously covered by health insurance.
Researchers surveyed the parents of 8,324 19- to 24-month-old children about their family's health insurance (including private insurance, Medicaid, and state-subsidized children's health care programs, military health care, and other types of insurance that paid for doctor visits and hospital stays). The parents noted whether there had been any breaks in health care coverage during the past year. Researchers also checked each child's history of vaccinations with his or her doctor to determine if the child received immunizations on schedule.
Nearly 13% — or about 1 in 8 children — went without insurance for some time during the first 2 years of life. Compared with kids covered by Medicaid, state-subsidized programs, or private insurance, children who were uninsured at the time of the survey were much less likely to have received vaccines on schedule. In addition, kids who'd never been insured or who'd had a gap in coverage within the last year were much less likely to be on schedule with vaccines compared with kids with continuous coverage.
What This Means to You. Children who lose insurance coverage are significantly more likely to experience delay in immunization, the results of this study suggest. Childhood immunizations are crucial because they prevent the spread of infectious diseases and complications associated with measles, mumps, rubella, diphtheria, tetanus, whooping cough (pertussis), polio, hepatitis B, and Haemophilus influenzae. If your family is not currently insured, your child may be eligible to receive vaccines at no cost through the Vaccines for Children program. For more information, talk to your doctor or visit the CDC's website at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vfc.
Source: Philip J. Smith, PhD; John Stevenson, MA; Susan Y. Chu, PhD, MSPH; Pediatrics, June 2006.
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: June 2006