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Fact Check: Vaccines do not differ based on insurance

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt

Viral posts on Facebook suggest that children from families on Medicaid or without insurance receive different vaccines than children whose families have private insurance. This claim is false.

Examples of such posts can be found here , here , and here .  

As stated by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “immunization is financed through private health insurance, public safety net programs, and patient out-of-pocket spending” (  here  ). Private insurance covers 52% of children aged 5 and under for immunizations, while public programs (like Medicaid) cover around 34%. The remaining 14% of children are underinsured and automatically covered by the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program, run by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).  

The CDC describes VFC as a “federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay” (  here  ). As explained here in “Financing Vaccines in the 21st Century: Assuring Access and Availability,” published by the National Academies Press (  www.nap.edu/  ), the CDC allocates each state a credit balance based on estimated need, which the state uses to order vaccine supplies at a discounted price from the manufacturer. The state then either stores the vaccines “for distribution to registered providers” or works “with the manufacturer to deliver the vaccine directly to providers.” 

The claim that children whose families receive Medicaid or do not have insurance receive different vaccines than those covered by private insurance is false. A CDC spokesperson told Reuters via email that while “providers have to keep the vaccines separate for auditing and accountability purposes,” there is “not a different vaccine for the VFC program.” The spokesperson added that VFC “purchases half of all vaccines given to people under age 18 in the country, and they purchase the same vaccines from the same manufacturers as everyone else.”

Reuters also received comment via email from Dr. Sean O’Leary, vice chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases (  here  ), who said that vaccines covered by VFC and Medicaid “are the same vaccines from the same manufacturers as private stock vaccines.” He explained that the “CDC negotiates with contractors for discounted purchase price and then distributes them to individual states. Same formulations.” 

VERDICT

False. Children covered by Medicaid or the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program do not receive different vaccines from children whose families are privately insured.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .

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