Following the measles outbreaks of the late 1980s and early 1990s, vaccination coverage was found to be low nationally, and there were pockets of underimmunized children primarily in inner cities. We described the percentage and demographics of children who were entitled to the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program in 2009 and evaluated whether Healthy People 2010 (HP 2010) vaccination coverage objectives of 90% were achieved among these children.
We analyzed data from 16,967 children aged 19–35 months sampled by the National Immunization Survey in 2009. VFC-entitled children included children who were (1) on Medicaid, (2) not covered by health insurance, (3) of American Indian/Alaska Native race/ethnicity, or (4) covered by private health insurance that did not pay all of the costs of vaccines, but who were vaccinated at a Federally Qualified Health Center or a Rural Health Center.
An estimated 49.7% of all children aged 19–35 months were entitled to VFC vaccines. Compared with children who did not qualify for VFC, the VFC-entitled children were significantly more likely to be Hispanic or non-Hispanic black; to have a mother who was widowed, divorced, separated, or never married; and to live in a household with an annual income below the federal poverty level. Mothers of VFC-entitled children were significantly less likely to have some college experience or to be college graduates. Of nine vaccines analyzed, two vaccines—polio at 91.7% and hepatitis B at 92.2%—achieved the HP 2010 90% coverage objective for VFC-entitled children, and four others, including measles-mumps-rubella at 88.8%, achieved greater than 80% coverage.
Today, children with demographic characteristics like those of children who were at the epicenter of the measles outbreaks two decades ago are entitled to VFC vaccines at no cost, and have achieved high vaccination coverage levels.