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Budget cuts don't disrupt child vaccination program

BISMARCK — Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health officials want the public to know state budget cuts will not disrupt vaccine services for children provided by the local public health unit.

At a Bismarck City Commission meeting Tuesday, Renae Moch, public health department director, told city officials about the discontinuation of a “universal” vaccine policy due to state agencies’ mandated 4 percent budget cuts to cover a projected billion dollar shortfall.

No child, however, will miss out on vaccinations as a result of the change.

A universal vaccine policy means that all vaccines, for uninsured children and privately insured children, are supplied by the North Dakota Department of Health to public health units, including Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

The state Health Department made a $1.6 million budget reduction resulting from the elimination of the universal vaccine policy.

As of July 1, the state-supplied vaccine will no longer be used for insured children.

The state Health Department will only provide vaccines for eligible children, which include children with no insurance, are on Medicaid, Native American or underinsured — meaning they have health insurance but it doesn’t cover immunizations.

Instead, Bismarck- Burleigh Public Health will have to purchase its own vaccines for children who have private health insurance, and then bill insurance for the cost.

Any child, insured or not, can still come to Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health for vaccinations, Moch said.

“It’s not cut; they (patients) can still come here,” Moch said. “It’s more or less an internal issue for us.”

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health provides all types of vaccines for infants, adolescents and adults — flu, measles, mumps and more.

The department also does travel immunizations and has experts available to discuss vaccinations, including correct doses, what is needed and when.

Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health recently released a two-year plan to increase vaccination rates in Burleigh County. That means educating more people about benefits of vaccination and dispelling myths, Moch said.

The department also has a “healthy people 2020 goal” to get overall vaccination rates to 90 to 95 percent in order to achieve herd immunity.

“As far as North Dakota overall and the Bismarck-area, we’re not quite at those levels,” said Theresa Schmidt, community health nurse manager.

Public health officials urge people to get themselves and their children vaccinated against preventable diseases.

“In this day and age, we’re not seeing the diseases out there that we’re seeing prior to vaccines or immunizations,” Schmidt said. “So it’s a foreign concept to people to be seeing some of those diseases, the polio, the measles, the mumps, and now that we’re not having the percentage of the population vaccinated that need to be, we’re starting to see some of that increase.”

This week is national infant immunization week, and health officials recommend getting infants vaccinated, which can be done at Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health.

For more information about vaccinations, call Bismarck-Burleigh Public Health at (701) 355-1540.