I wanted to update our families on an important piece of legislation recently passed in Connecticut that may affect vaccine delivery. This is going to be a little wordy, so feel free to close your eyes if you get bored. But I fear this may have some noticeable effects on our practice down the road, so it is probably worth discussing. First, a little background:
In our practice, we participate in a program called Vaccines For Children. Through VFC, the state provides vaccines free of charge to children 18 years and under. For Medicaid and underinsured patients, this includes all the recommended childhood vaccines. For patients with commercial insurance, VFC provides many vaccines, but some must still be purchased privately and are reimbursed through insurance.
In this most recent legislative session, Connecticut expanded the VFC program for commercially insured patients to include Hepatitis A vaccine, Pneumococcal vaccine, and Flu vaccine (for ages 6 months to 5 years only). They also, without much apparent planning or notification, included language making participation in the program mandatory, meaning that after January 1, 2013 providers will be mandated to obtain vaccines covered under VFC from the state.
In the past, the VFC program has experienced a variety of supply problems creating periodic shortages and delays with some vaccines. They have also restricted the choices of available vaccines, offering recently, for example, only multi-dose vials of flu vaccine for some patients. Practices like ours have compensated for these limitations by using a mix of both state supplied and commercially purchased vaccine.
As things currently stand, we will no longer be able to purchase these vaccines privately after January 1 and be forced to rely exclusively on the VFC suppy. The state says it is working toward improving the supply system and reports that provider’s will now have increased selection. Still, many doctors are concerned that the sudden implementation of this mandate will increase vaccine supply problems and limit the available choices. It is unclear who will really benefit from this new mandate.
Vaccine providers in the state became aware of this legislative language only about 6 weeks ago. Both the Connecticut chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Connecticut State Medical Society, the largest organizations of vaccine providers, have been working to oppose or delay implementation of the mandate, but they were unsuccessful. We do not yet know how this will effect our ability to provide vaccines, but we are especially concerned about next year’s flu season. We will keep you posted. I am including links below to several news items for anyone interested in learning more about this issue.