Vaccines for 200K children threatened by spending cuts

Sequester would stop funding for vaccines preventing multiple diseases

By Rachel McNeill - Anchor

HOUSTON - The $85 billion in forced spending cuts known as the sequester would nix vaccinations for more than 200,000 American children, including 10,000 in Texas.

The news is disconcerting to expecting parents Tatiana Sanchez and Aaron Mejia. The two are anticipating the birth of a daughter in April, but financial woes are making the couple anxious about the joyous occasion.

"It's stressful. It's too, too stressful," said Mejia.

The family brings in about $2,400 each month and said their Medicaid application was denied.

The parents had to pay out of pocket for two-year-old Aaron, Jr.'s vaccination, which they had put off time and time before.

"It was like almost $400 just for one shot," said Sanchez.

Dr. Richard Rupp, a University of Texas Medical Branch pediatrician with the Sealy Center for Vaccine Development, said he's worried about the toll the cuts could take on families already struggling to provide for their children.

"I don't think that a lot of families will be able to come up with the money to pay for the vaccines," said Rupp.

In Texas alone, 10,000 impoverished and uninsured children would lose access to vaccines, which protect them from diseases like measles, mumps, rubella, chicken pox, meningitis, whooping cough, tetanus and the flu.

"Not only does that put the child at risk for catching these diseases, but the vaccines are required for school attendance and being in daycare or daycare programs that the children benefit from," said Rupp.

The pediatrician said the sequester's effects have become a public health issue.

For families on a shoestring budget, the government belt-tightening creates a spending dilemma for families.

"I care about my son's health, but he still needs food. He still needs clothes which I need to get him. We need to still pay rent," said Sanchez.

The critical research dollars that fund the development of new vaccines are also at risk of being cut.

Medicaid and CHIP, the Children's Health Insurance Program, are exempt from the cuts.

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