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Alaska can't pay to vaccinate adults in 2011

Alaska epidemiologists warned that the state will no longer pay for adult vaccinations because of cutbacks in federal funding.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Alaska epidemiologists warned that the state will no longer pay for adult vaccinations because of cutbacks in federal funding.

The warning follows a 2008 decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that declared Alaska was receiving too much federal funding for public health, and announced it would cut funding to the state by $3.6 million over three years.

In 2009 the state spent $14.5 million on its immunization program, about $10.2 million of which came from the CDC's Vaccinations for Children program and $4.3 million from the federal Public Health Act.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the state spends about $1 million per year of the Public Health Act money subsidizing 65,000 vaccines for adults.

"We had to make choices," said Laurel Wood, of the state division of Public Health. "We weren't happy with either of these options."

Children would be unaffected by the decision, as the remaining federal funds will be directed to them.

The Fairbanks Regional Public Health Center will provide three types of adult vaccines through Dec. 31, as long as vaccine supplies remain available. One vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough. Another blocks seasonal influenza, and a third is intended for people 65 and older and fights pneumococcal infections, primarily a lung disease.

The center charges a fee on a sliding scale based upon income.

"It's not like there won't be any more adult vaccines in the state at all," Wood said.

After Dec. 31, adults will have to buy vaccines from private sources at unsubsidized prices.

During the past decade, the estimated cost to vaccinate a child from birth to age 18 rose from $225 to $1,552. As costs for vaccines keep growing, the federal money soon may not cover all children, either. Officials would not speculate on whether the state government will make up the difference.

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Information from: Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com