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Idaho will pay for child vaccine through January

The state of Idaho will buy all required childhood vaccines through January 2010, Gov. Butch Otter said today.

The governor earlier had called for eliminating the state’s vaccine program in this year’s budget to save $2.8 million. Otter had wanted a voluntary state vaccine purchasing pool to be set up to reduce the cost of immunizations for Idaho children, but that hasn’t happen.

He said he hopes the Legislative Health Care Task Force in the coming months will be able to develop a permanent solution that shares the cost of children’s vaccines between insurance companies, physicians and residents.

The task force recently asked Otter to transfer funds within the state Department of Health and Welfare to cover vaccine purchases after Idaho Health and Welfare announced that the state no longer would pay for vaccinations for children who are covered by private health insurance, and instead would organize a voluntary purchasing pool. Health and Welfare faces an estimated $20 million shortfall to cover Medicaid costs in the budget year that began July 1.

Health and Welfare officials thought they’d be able to offset the budget cut with federal stimulus money for a year, and lawmakers approved the cut. But the federal money didn’t come through.

Otter’s office said only one vaccine manufacturer submitted a pricing schedule to participate in the proposed vaccine purchasing pool, and it was at or above the market price.

“It would be an understatement to say I’m disappointed that some players in the health care system have not lived up to the roles designed into that system,” the governor said in a statement.

Idaho has the lowest child immunization rate in the nation. Idaho’s child immunization rate for measles is lower than that of Indonesia, Pakistan or Croatia, according to the Idaho Division of Health, and its rate for polio is below that of Botswana, Latvia and Sri Lanka.

Idaho’s overall child immunization rate, according to the 2007-’08 National Immunization Survey, is 57.6 percent. Washington’s is 73.7 percent; the national average is 77.2 percent.