Nevada's immunization program manager says former First Lady Rosalynn Carter does an excellent service by calling attention to the need for children to get vaccinations. But Bob Salcido said she was in error Thursday when she told a Sparks audience poor children in the state are being turned away if their parents can't pay for the shots.
"That's not true," he said. "We provide vaccines for all children regardless of ability to pay."
He said the federally funded Vaccines For Children program provides vaccines at no cost to children who are eligible - primarily the uninsured or underinsured, Medicaid eligible and to Native American children.
He said the department gets some complaints from parents who say they were charged for vaccines. He said they may be charged legally if they have insurance which covers vaccinations but, beyond that, the only charge possible is an administrative fee.
"To our knowledge, children are not being turned away," he said.
He said the federal VFC program requires private providers to guarantee that children who receive state-provided vaccines will not be charged if their parents can't afford to pay.
"They can charge an administrative fee but if they can't pay the administrative fee, it's usually waived too," he said. "There's no barrier to getting vaccines in Nevada.
"In fact, it's fraud and abuse if they charge for the vaccines we give them."
Carter was in the Reno area to speak at the Northern Nevada Immunization Coalition conference. She said her son, Jack, a Las Vegas investment broker, told her that poor children in that area were being turned away from clinics.
Salcido said he agrees Nevada needs to improve the percentage of young children getting vaccines. A national survey put that number at 68.4 percent compared to 81 percent nationally. He said public health providers - primarily Nevada's county health departments - have a 77 percent vaccination rate but that "where we're falling down is private providers. He said, however, the state should be at 90 percent by 2010.
And he said vaccine-preventable diseases are at record lows in Nevada. For example, there were just 17 cases of hepatitis A in the state last year.
n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.