N.C. Division of Public Health says back-to-school immunizations are essential

Published 3:21 pm Tuesday, August 10, 2010

The N.C. Division of Public Health urges parents to plan ahead to see that children are properly immunized for the new school year. We want parents to know that by law, their children must be up-to-date on their required immunizations to start school, Beth Rowe-West, head of the Immunization Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health, said. Vaccines are a safe and effective way to help individuals protect themselves, their families, and loved ones from disease.

Children entering kindergarten or 6th grade in N.C. schools must have their immunization records up-to-date. Rutherford, Polk and McDowell county health departments offer required school entry immunizations Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. until 4:30 p.m.

An estimated 67 percent of North Carolinas children qualify for the federally-funded Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, which provides vaccinations for eligible children through age 18. To qualify a child must be:

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Medicaid eligible,

American Indian or Alaskan Native,

Uninsured, or

Underinsured. Underinsured means a child has health insurance, but it wont cover the vaccine(s) because it doesnt cover any vaccines, it doesnt cover certain vaccines, or it covers vaccines, but it has a fixed dollar limit or cap for vaccines. Once that fixed dollar amount has been reached, a child is eligible.

There is no fee for the cost of VFC vaccine for eligible children; however, a provider may charge a fee to administer the vaccine. Parents who want to participate should contact their health care provider or their local health department or visit www.immunizenc.com/vfcinfo.htm. There is no need to enroll in the program.

Recent changes to the North Carolina Immunization Program (NCIP) mean that free, state-funded vaccines are no longer provided to insured children. Insured families may be able to take advantage of $3 million in one-time funding approved by the N.C. General Assembly to provide a limited amount of free vaccine during the transition away from the state-funded program. The vaccine will be distributed to children entering kindergarten through 8th grade.

We know that state funding for the immunization program helped us boost our immunization rates for insured and uninsured children, Rowe-West said. However, we are optimistic that with the help of our local health departments, doctors and insurers, we can ensure that every child is ready for school.

Parents are encouraged to check with their health care provider or insurance provider to find out which vaccines and vaccine services are covered by their plans. For details on school immunization requirements in North Carolina, visit http://www.immunizenc.com/SchoolReqs.htm#requirements.