Recent data shows a 12.9 million dose gap in public vaccine orders in the U.S. for routine childhood vaccines in 2020-2021 compared to the year prior. This leaves many children, especially younger ones, at risk of serious illness from vaccine-preventable diseases, like measles and whooping cough. In addition, as children return to in-person school and activities, they must get caught up on routine vaccinations.
Dr. Melinda Wharton, Associate Director of Vaccine Policy with the CDC, says, “COVID-19 caused so many disruptions last year – and as a result, many children missed their regular well-child visits and have fallen behind on receiving routine vaccinations. As in-person learning and play continue to resume, we want all our kids to be protected – and that means getting caught up on routine vaccinations that were missed. We can all do our part to help, whether we’re parents making sure our children are up to date, or healthcare professionals checking patient records and calling families to schedule appointments.”
The Vaccines For Children (VFC) program is a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of the inability to pay. CDC buys vaccines and distributes them to grantees—i.e., state health departments and certain local and territorial public health agencies—which distribute them at no charge to those private physicians’ offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers. Children eligible for VFC vaccines are entitled to receive those vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP).
A child is eligible for the VFC Program if they are younger than 19 years of age and is one of the following:
- American Indian or Alaska Native
Children whose health insurance covers the cost of vaccinations are not eligible for VFC vaccines, even when a claim for the cost of the vaccine and its administration would be denied for payment by the insurance carrier because the plan’s deductible had not been met.
The CDC recommends the following to get children caught up on routine childhood vaccinations.
Talk to your doctor to determine if your child is on track with well-child checkups and routine childhood vaccinations. Well-child visits and regular vaccinations are essential and help children stay healthy and protected. Children who are not protected by vaccines are more likely to get diseases like measles and whooping cough, which are highly contagious and can be very serious, especially for babies and young children. In recent years, there have been outbreaks of measles, especially in communities with low vaccination rates. With many children heading back to in-person school and daycare, catching up on any missed routine vaccinations is imperative.
Contact your doctor to find out how they are safely seeing patients during the pandemic. Doctors’ offices are taking extra steps to protect families and see children safely during this time. Call your doctor and ask about what precautions they have in place and any requirements you should know before going.
Ask your doctor or pharmacist about free options. Explore the resources available that help ensure all children have access to routine vaccinations. There are programs in place to provide eligible children free vaccines through CDC’s Vaccines for Children program.
Prepare for your vaccination visit. Take steps to make shots less stressful for both you and your child. Let’s face it, sometimes childhood vaccinations can be nerve-wracking, but simple things, like bringing your child’s favorite toy or coming prepared with questions for your doctor, can help reduce any stress you may have.
Remember: It’s never too late to get your child vaccinated. The CDC created a catch-up schedule to help guide parents whose children missed vaccine appointments. As always, it’s important to work with your child’s doctor to find the proper schedule for your child’s needs.