Routt County public health expands to offer childhood vaccinations
State health officials wanted local department to be a safety net provider.
The Routt County Public Health Department can now provide people with a wide array of childhood vaccinations, after the “soft launch” of its Vaccines for Children program this week.
Routt County Public Health Director Roberta Smith said the effort builds on the capacity to give vaccines established because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department hopes to be a backup to other local efforts to reach the roughly 1,000 children in Routt County who are eligible.
“(The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment) wanted us to be part of this program as a safety net,” Smith told commissioners last week,
Vaccines for Children is a federally funded program where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention buys vaccines and distributes them to local health agencies and providers. The program is geared toward children younger than 19 who are Medicaid-eligible, uninsured, under-insured or are of American Indian or Alaska Native heritage.
Smith said the department gets vaccines for free and charges Medicaid an administration fee, but there is no cost for a patient if they are eligible. Colorado generally tracks close to or just behind national averages for childhood vaccinations.
About 91% of 2-year-old children in Colorado have received at least one dose of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, while the national average is about 93%, according to 2018 data, the latest available from the CDC.
“Most public health departments are (VFC providers),” said Susan Madigan, who recently joined the department as public health nurse after working for Northwest Colorado Health. “We can really function as that safety net so kids don’t fall through the cracks.”
Madigan said most of the vaccines they have would typically be given to someone who is in their first five years of life, though they have a wide array of about a dozen different shots. The vaccines are kept in a special fridge the department needed to get to be able to handle COVID-19 vaccines.
Inside, vaccines are meticulously spaced out from the back and from each other, and water bottles are placed inside to help keep the internal temperature constant.
“Kids that are maybe new to town that haven’t gotten established with a provider,” Madigan said, “I think that’s probably who we’ll get the most.”
On Tuesday, March 29, the department will hold its first clinic. Madigan said the plan is to have reoccurring clinics from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays, but that an appointment is required.
If someone comes in that isn’t eligible for the VFC program, Madigan said they can still get a vaccine, but they may have to pay for it. Right now, the department is set up to charge people on the spot, and give a receipt that can be used for insurance reimbursement. Eventually, Smith said she hopes they will have the ability to accept various insurance plans.
“We don’t want to miss an opportunity for vaccination,” Smith said. “But we’re just taking baby steps right now.”
To reach Dylan Anderson, call 970-871-4247 or email danderson@SteamboatPilot.com.
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