- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 30, 2006

ATLANTA (AP) — The growing list of childhood vaccinations reads like an alphabet soup: Hib, HepA, HepB, IPV, PCV, MCV4, DTaP, Tdap, varicella and influenza.

Parents dragging their children to the doctor’s office for those required school shots can expect to hear about more vaccines and — if they’re uninsured — new expenses.

Twenty years ago, it cost $75 to $100 to immunize a child with the four available vaccines. Today, 12 are generally recommended for children and adolescents, at a private-sector cost of about $1,250.

And the government is expected to recommend a 13th vaccine for girls — a shot that protects against cervical cancer. It costs about $360 for the three-dose series, potentially raising the per-child vaccination bill to more than $1,600.

“The good news is we can now prevent so many diseases. The bad news is it’s gotten more complicated,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat, who heads immunization programs for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For some, it’s more than complicated — the intricacies of vaccination guidelines are simply unknown.

Doctors are worried about vaccine-supply problems, too.

In February 2004, when there was a shortage of a vaccine against pneumococcal pneumonia, federal officials asked doctors to put off the fourth recommended dose for young children. CDC officials lifted the suspension seven months later.

Then there’s the flu. The government has been expanding flu-shot recommendations to cover more children. This year, the CDC added 2- to 5-year-olds to a list that already included ages 6- to 23-month-old infants.

The government recommends these vaccinations for children by age 4 to 6: hepatitis A and B; inactivated poliovirus (IPV); rotavirus; haemophilus influenzae Type B (Hib); measles, mumps, rubella (MMR); pneumococcal conjugate (PCV); varicella (chickenpox); influenza; and diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP).

Compounding the acronym confusion, there’s also a Tdap — tetanus diphtheria and acellular pertussis vaccine — a version of DTaP for 11- to 12-year-olds. And of course, there’s that hard-to-get meningitis vaccine (MCV4) for freshmen entering high school and college, and eventually for 11- to 12-year-olds.

A new human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine combats cervical cancer. The vaccine committee last month recommended the three-dose series be given to girls starting at age 11 or 12. The cost may be a challenge for some families.

That expense and the cost of other vaccines will be covered for children on Medicaid and other needy groups who qualify. A bigger problem is children who don’t qualify for the federal coverage and who have inadequate health insurance. Many states already aren’t getting enough money to pay for shots for those children, even without adding the HPV vaccine.

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