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Vaccines for Children Program (VFC)
PARENTS home page
VFC is vaccines for children
Parents & VFC  
  1. What is the history of the VFC program?
  2. Which children are eligible?
  3. Do I have to pay anything?
  4. What vaccines are provided?
  5. Where can I get these vaccines?
  6. What other resources can I check?
  1. What is the history of the Vaccines for Children Program?

In 1989 – 1991, a measles epidemic in the United States resulted in tens of thousands of cases of measles and hundreds of deaths. Upon investigation, CDC found that more than half of the children who had measles had not been immunized, even though many of them had seen a health care provider.

In partial response to that epidemic, Congress passed the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) on August 10, 1993, creating the Vaccines for Children (VFC) Program. VFC became operational October 1, 1994. Known as section 1928 of the Social Security Act, the Vaccines for Children program is an entitlement program (a right granted by law) for eligible children, age 18 and below.

VFC helps families of children who may not otherwise have access to vaccines by providing free vaccines to doctors who serve them.

VFC is administered at the national level by the CDC through the National Immunization Program. CDC contracts with vaccine manufacturers to buy vaccines at reduced rates.

States and eligible projects enroll physicians who serve eligible patients up to and including age 18 years and who provide routine immunizations with little to no out-of-pocket costs to the parents.

  1. Which children are eligible?
Children who are eligible for VFC vaccine:
  • Are 18 years old or younger;
  • Are eligible for Medicaid;
  • Have no health insurance;
  • Are Native American or Alaskan Native; or
  • They have health insurance, but it does not cover immunizations. In these cases, these children must go to a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) or Rural Health Clinic (RHC) for immunizations.
However, this is just the short answer. Read on for a much more detailed explanation.
  1. Do I have to pay anything?

If your child meets one of the VFC eligibility criteria listed above, the vaccine must always be provided free of charge.

Free of charge means just that. The vaccines have already been paid for with federal tax dollars. This means that no one can charge a fee for the vaccine itself.

However, each state immunization provider has been granted (by law) the ability to charge what is called an “administrative fee.” An administrative fee is similar to a patient’s co-pay, in that it helps providers offset their costs of doing business.

The amount of the administrative fee differs from state to state, based on a regional scale determined by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

The fee table was published in the Federal Register on October 3, 1994 and remains unchanged.

These regional administrative charges are maximum fees that providers may ask patients to pay. That means that if a state's administrative fee is $15.00, a provider may charge a patient any amount up to, but not exceeding that $15.00 charge, for each vaccine administered. There is no lower limit, so providers have the option to charge what they feel is fair, including no charge at all.

NOTE: If a patient cannot afford to pay the administrative fee being charged by the provider, the law requires that the provider must still administer the vaccine to the patient. Parents of children enrolled in Medicaid programs should not be charged an administrative fee. To be reimbursed the provider should bill the state Medicaid program.

  1. What vaccines are provided?
Consult the official list, Approved Vaccines and Biologicals for the VFC Program. The diseases that these vaccines prevent include:
  • Diphtheria
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Influenza
  • Measles
  • Meningococcal disease
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Pneumococcal disease
  • Polio
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella (German measles)
  • Tetanus (lockjaw)
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  1. Where can I get these vaccines?

Go to:   Short answer | Detailed answer

Short answer:
Your child can receive free vaccines provided through the VFC program at:
  • Private doctors offices
  • Private clinics
  • Hospitals
  • Public Health Clinics
  • Community Health Clinics
  • Some schools in some states
  • The vaccines are totally free.
  • All recommended childhood shots/vaccines are provided by VFC.
  • You may have to pay an administrative fee (similar to a co-pay), which helps doctors offset their costs of doing business, yet give your child the shots/vaccine for free.
  • Read on for a more detailed and accurate explanation...
  1. What other resources can I check (other useful links)?

National Immunization Program
Provides information about vaccines, including precautions and contraindications for immunization and vaccine shortages.

CDC Information Contact Center
1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636)
TTY 1-888-232-6348

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This page last modified on May 31, 2006


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