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News Release

Friday, Sept. 16, 2005

Contact: CDC Media Relations
(404) 639-3286

All Children 18 and Under Displaced by Hurricane Katrina Will Receive Free Vaccinations

HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced today that all children from birth to 18 years old displaced by Hurricane Katrina are eligible to receive free vaccines through the federally-run Vaccines for Children program (VFC), regardless of whether they are staying at shelters, hotels, or with family and friends and regardless of previous health insurance coverage status. Managed by HHS’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the VFC helps families of children who may not otherwise have access to vaccines by providing free vaccines to doctors who serve them.

“Children displaced by Hurricane Katrina have been through so much,” Secretary Leavitt said. “But with each passing day there is hope for a brighter future for them, and we plan on doing everything possible to make sure their future is healthy. That’s why we are taking this step today to make sure children have access to immunizations through the Vaccines for Children Program.”

CDC’s immunization recommendations for children displaced by Hurricane Katrina are aimed at keeping them up-to-date on routine vaccinations and protecting them from disease outbreaks in large, crowded group settings. The nation’s childhood immunization coverage rates continue at record high levels, so there is no immediate threat of vaccine-preventable disease outbreaks among these children.

HHS considers all children from birth to 18 years old who have been displaced by the effects of Hurricane Katrina to effectively be uninsured, because they are not expected to have access to medical records or proof of insurance. Taking this action allows doctors, clinics, and health departments who provide childhood vaccinations to immunize these children using VFC vaccine.

The Vaccines for Children program is an entitlement program (a right granted by law) for eligible children, age 18 and below, known as section 1928 of the Social Security Act. VFC became operational Oct. 1, 1994. Through the VFC program, public purchased vaccine is available at no charge to enrolled public and private health care providers for eligible children. More information about the VFC program can be obtained at http://www.cdc.gov/nip/vfc/.

CDC’s Interim Immunization Recommendations for Individuals Displaced by Hurricane Katrina can be accessed at http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/hurricanes/katrina/vaccrecdisplaced.asp. Complete information on the full range of accelerated benefits available from HHS for hurricane victims is available at http://www.hhs.gov/katrina.


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Last revised: September 16, 2005