Agency adopts new eligibility guidelines
Published: Monday, June 18, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 20:07
Students and families in need of immunizations for the upcoming school year should begin planning appointments ahead of time.
Due to the recent reduction of state funds for vaccines, the Texas Department of State Health Services has implemented a new immunization eligibility policy this year, which limits those who can be immunized at the Brazos County Health
The Brazos County Health Department located in Bryan has applied the new eligibility guidelines. Those who have private insurance that covers vaccines are no longer eligible to receive vaccines at the Brazos County Health Department.
“Now with the eligibility changes if you have privately held insurance, the Department of State Health Services is asking that you return back to the very people who are taking your insurance premiums for your immunization care,” said Community Health Services Division Director Julia Anderson.
Currently, the only people who are able to get routine vaccinations through the Health Department are those who are uninsured.
“It’s not so much that we’re turning people away so they can’t get vaccinated at all,” said Sara Mendez, Health Education and Promotion Director at the Brazos County Health Department. “It’s really just sending them back to their provider to do that.”
The policy forces parents and children with vaccine insurance coverage to start making appointments ahead of time with their primary care physicians, which causes frustration for some.
“I think it’s more of a frustration about convenience,” Anderson said. “If you came to a local health department no matter what your insurance status you could come here and still get vaccines for back to school or around the holidays.”
The Brazos County Health Department receives allocations of vaccinations through a process that starts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to Anderson, the CDC negotiates nationally with pharmaceutical companies for a price as if buying a discount volume for the whole nation, and then it gives each state an allocation of the vaccine it has preordered. Then the Texas Department of State Health Services looks at Texas with the federal allocation to figure out what each county needs.
Along with the allocated vaccines from the CDC, the Brazos County Health Department also has private stock vaccines that it has paid for out of local dollars. This private stock includes vaccines for bacterial meningitis and the flu. Patrons of the Brazos County Health Department who have private insurance that covers vaccines are able to receive these vaccinations.
College students are examples of this. They are able to walk in and pay the unit price for these vaccines. A bacterial meningitis vaccine will cost a student $110.
Before the new eligibility guidelines, students and other people in the community were able to receive vaccinations for bacterial meningitis for only $25 out of pocket. This is because the rest of the cost was offset by tax dollars. The state of Texas helped support the cost of vaccines but now cannot afford to do so.
“Although there’s a price increase, I’m happy to know that there’s still a place my friends or I could go to for these types of vaccines,” said Madison Davis, sophomore English major. “I’d rather pay the unit price around here than go all the way home to see a doctor.”
The Brazos County Health Department said it has done its best to let the community know about the eligibility changes.
“I’d say the word is getting out because when we see people stop by here, it is people that truly do not have insurance,” Anderson said.
Public service announcements have been made and letters were sent home to parents in the Bryan and College Station School Districts describing the changes and to remind parents of needed vaccinations. Students bridging from high school to college will need updated immunizations before the new school year begins.
All students under the age of 30 entering public and private institutions of higher education need to provide evidence of vaccination against bacterial meningitis. Proof of vaccination can be sent directly to the admissions office at Texas A&M University.
BOX: More immunization information for students can be found on the Student Health Services website, www.shs.tamu.edu.
To stay up to date with the latest news from the Brazos County Health Department, visit www.brazoshealth.org.