County stops immunization service for under-insured kids

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SAN DIEGO — The San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to stop routine immunization services for children whose health plans do not cover vaccinations, but the change is expected to affect fewer than 300 youths each year.

The change will go into effect in San Diego County Wednesday. County officials said the action was spurred by new U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines for the use of federal “Section 317” funds, which are provided to states for vaccine purchases.

County officials said most children are covered by private health insurance or the the CDC’s Vaccinations for Children program, which provides free immunizations to kids and teens who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay. Public health centers will determine VFC eligibility and provide immunizations accordingly.

Those who are not covered under the VFC program will be referred to their primary care physician, a federally qualified health center or a rural health center.

“I just want to highlight that we’re not taking away childhood immunizations, it’s just going to be funded by other federally-funded groups,” Supervisor Dave Roberts said.

The Section 317 funds will now be used for adults who are uninsured or do not have enough insurance to cover vaccinations, have sexual contact with people infected with Hepatitis B, or are still housed in juvenile detention facilities — where inmates can stay up to age 25.

Despite the change, children — even those fully insured — will remain able to receive vaccinations via the county in the event of a disaster, an outbreak of disease or in an effort to prevent an illness from developing in someone who has been exposed.

Prior to this morning’s meeting, the supervisors chose Bill Horn as their chairman and Dave Roberts as vice chairman.

Horn replaced Dianne Jacob, whose one-year tenure included adding a third firefighting helicopter to the county’s fleet, relaxing rules on beekeeping operations and launching several initiatives to assist the elderly including an effort to combat Alzheimer’s disease — the third-leading cause of death in the region.

“I laid out an ambitious agenda for 2014,” Jacob said. “Some wondered if it was too ambitious. I’m proud to say our county government rose to the challenge.”