State of Alaska Ends Free Vaccines for Kids on January 1
Despite the change, 3 in 4 Alaskan children will remain covered
ANCHORAGE - Only two weeks remain to get free vaccines for your kids. That’s because, starting in January, public health nurses won’t be able to provide vaccines to kids covered by insurance.
Adult vaccines will also only be available to those without insurance.
Despite the changes, the Department of Health and Social Services still plans to offer free immunizations for those without insurance, and to “under-insured” people whose insurance won’t pay for vaccines.
Gerri Yett is the department’s Immunization Program Manager. She said that, despite the change, the state still plans to have vaccines for 3 out of 4 Alaskan children.
“Approximately 75 percent of the kids still will have universal coverage, for all vaccines,” she said. A combination of federal and state funds will keep uninsured kids immunized. Between the national Vaccines for Children program, and the Alaskan legislature’s efforts to continue free immunizations through this year’s House Bill 310, she said no one will be denied access to immunizations.
“The thing about vaccines is, it’s done on a sliding fee scale, so if a parent truly does not have insurance, they can still be seen at a public health center,” Yett said. “If they are unable to pay the fee, the fee will be waived. No child will be refused services.”
Yett said that two vaccines will still be provided for free statewide. One is a hepatitis-B birth dose, to prevent perinatal transmission of hepatitis. The other is a “t-dap” cocooning project, available for family members and other close contacts of a newborn. The t-dap vaccine protects against tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (known as whooping cough).
Health workers are encouraging parents to maintain up-to-date vaccinations for kids up to age 7. Yett said that, despite the reliance on private insurers to supply vaccines, most insurance policies already cover the immunizations, and won’t need a co-pay or a deductible.