June 2010, Updated October 2014
Vaccines help keep our children healthy. However, vaccines can be very expensive and many parents cannot afford to pay for vaccines on their own. When large groups of children go without vaccines, it leaves them unprotected by diseases. When diseases are rare, that might not seem like much of a risk, but the more kids who don’t get vaccinated, the more these diseases will spread to others who have not been vaccinated. As a result, the diseases will become much more common than they are today.
What is the Vaccines for Children program?
The Vaccines for Children Program (VFC) is a federally funded program that provides vaccines free of charge to children who otherwise may not have been able to afford the vaccines. VFC was created in 1993 as a new entitlement program to be a required part of each state’s Medicaid plan. This means that “children who are eligible for VFC vaccines are entitled to receive those vaccines recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices”1 — the federal committee that makes recommendations on routine vaccinations for children and adults.
Who is eligible?
As outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children 18 years old and younger who meet at least one of the following criteria are eligible to receive VFC vaccines:
- Medicaid eligible: A child who is eligible for (or enrolled in) the Medicaid program
- CHIP enrollees within a Medicaid expansion program: A child who is enrolled in a Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) that is part of an expanded Medicaid program
- Uninsured: A child who has no health insurance coverage
- American Indian or Alaska Native: As defined by the “Indian Health Care Improvement Act,” a child who is of American Indian or Alaska Native descent
- Underinsured: A child who has private health insurance, but the coverage does not include vaccines, a child whose insurance does not cover vaccines otherwise covered by VFC, or a child whose insurance caps vaccine coverage at a certain amount. When that coverage amount is reached, the child becomes underinsured. Underinsured children may only receive VFC vaccines through a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinic (RHC).
Children are not eligible for VFC vaccines if their health insurance covers the cost of vaccinations.
What will the vaccine cost me?
As long as your child meets one of the VFC eligibility criteria listed above, the vaccine will be provided free of charge. Because the vaccines have already been paid for with federal tax dollars, no one can charge for the vaccine.
HOWEVER, each state immunization provider can charge an administrative fee, which is “similar to a patient’s co-pay in that it helps providers offset their costs of doing business.”2 But, each state has a maximum fee that providers may charge, which is about $15, depending on the state. Some providers charge less than this maximum fee, while others may charge no fee at all.
Which vaccines are provided?
For the official list of provided vaccines, click here.
The following is a list of diseases that these vaccines prevent:
- Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
- Hepatitis A
- Hepatitis B
- Human Papillomavirus (HPV)
- Influenza (flu)
- Meningococcal disease
- Pertussis (whooping cough)
- Pneumococcal disease
- Rubella (German measles)
- Tetanus (lockjaw)
- Varicella (chickenpox)
Where can I get the vaccines?
VFC vaccines may be given by any participating VFC Program provider, which includes private doctors as well as providers in private clinics, hospitals, public health clinics, community health clinics, and schools. Most pediatricians are VFC providers, and many family practice providers and general practitioners participate as well. In total, there are more than 44,000 participating providers in the U.S. and its Territories.
States and Territory Health Departments are responsible for managing their own VFC Programs. For help with finding a VFC provider near your home, you should contact your State/Territory VFC Coordinator. For a list of these coordinators, click here.
Remember: vaccinating your child is a very important step in maintaining your child’s health and preventing serious diseases. If you are unable to afford vaccinations for your child or if the vaccinations are not covered by your health insurance, do not let this stand in the way of getting your child vaccinated. He or she may be eligible for the Vaccines for Children Program!
This information was taken from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) website, containing VFC information for parents. The website, including additional details and resources, may be found at http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/parents/qa-detailed.html
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2014 April 24) VFC Program. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/index.html ▲
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) (2013 Feb. 19) VFC: Parents. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/programs/vfc/parents/qa-detailed.html ▲