Despite Budget Cuts Gila County Still Offering Vaccines

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State budget cuts have forced counties to finagle so children not fully insured can still access vaccinations.

Faced with $4.3 million in cuts to vaccine programs, the Arizona Immunization Program Office said beginning in January, it would no longer purchase recommended vaccines like the one for chicken pox. It will continue to pay for required vaccines like the one for polio.

Through a partnership between Gila County and the federally qualified Canyonlands Community Health Care center in Safford, the nearly 5,000 children serviced by Gila County will remain fully guarded against disease.

“The state is cutting back very harshly,” said Gila County Health Services Program Manager Lorraine Dalrymple. “I’m sort of grabbing Band-Aids and fixing things as they come along.”

Gila County serviced 4,600 children from July 2007 to July 2008, and has provided 8,400 vaccines this year to date.

The move results in no substantial changes, except that the federal government will now pay for the vaccines instead of the state. Dalrymple said both the required and recommended vaccines provided in Gila County last year cost $330,500.

Although the price varies by vaccine, the recommended shot against the human papilloma virus, for example, costs $123 for each of three doses.

Other recommended vaccines include those against chicken pox and hepatitis A. Dalrymple said there’s been outbreaks of hepatitis A before, and that many children likely would have gone without vaccinations if the program had been disbanded.

David Fletcher, the county’s director of Health and Community Services, said he’s not sure what cuts, if any, are next.

“Public health has never had an abundance of money, so we always go from a position of scarcity,” Fletcher said.

In July, his program lost $1 million in funding from an $8.6 million budget, which included $34,000 from teen pregnancy prevention and $15,000 from a community nutrition program.

“They’ve already cut the low-hanging fruit,” Fletcher said, adding that more cuts are likely statewide in the next two months.

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