Immunization Campaign Targets Children from Low-Income Families
The Clinton administration, along with former First Lady Roslyn Carter, today will launch a campaign to increase immunization rates among poor children, the Los Angeles Times reports. While about 78% of children nationwide have received immunizations against diphtheria, polio, measles and "other potentially deadly diseases," that rate falls to as low as 55% in some communities -- leaving children from low-income families "at high risk for disease outbreaks," according to a White House report (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). In response, President Clinton is ordering federal officials to study the immunization status of the "five million children younger than five who receive government assistance" (AP/Washington Post, 12/11). Clinton's campaign will monitor these children through the federal Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which provides food stamps and vitamins to pregnant women, new mothers and children up to age five. Although WIC eligibility standards vary from state to state, the program's maximum allowable income is 185% of the federal poverty level, or $31,540 for a family of four. When families visit a WIC facility, they will be asked whether the children have been immunized. If not, parents will be encouraged to visit their own doctors, or if they are uninsured, to obtain free immunizations from public health clinics. As part of the program, WIC centers will maintain immunization records and discuss "[i]nformation on the importance of vaccinations" in their education programs. Chris Jennings, Deputy Assistant to the President for Health Policy, said, "[WIC] is the best point of contact, the best place to reach millions of children." Children in the WIC program typically have lower immunization rates than other children of the same age, and because they are from low-income families, they are "much less likely" to have health insurance that covers immunization (Rosenblatt, Los Angeles Times, 12/11). In addition, the president's executive memorandum directs the CDC and the Department of Agriculture to develop a national plan to identify at-risk children and "improve immunization rates." Also participating in the campaign, the American Academy of Pediatrics plans to instruct its 55,000 members to "emphasize the importance of timely immunization[s]" (AP/Washington Post, 12/11).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.