The Texas Department of State Health Services is implementing new rules that may prevent some residents from continuing to obtain vaccinations from the Brazos County Health Department.
The changes will go into effect on Jan. 1.
Under the new rules, only uninsured adults 19 years and older can be vaccinated at the health department.
Vaccines are limited to Hepatitis B, measles and mumps and rubella, tetanus and diphtheria.
Also, residents 18 years old and younger who have private insurance that covers vaccines will no longer be eligible to receive vaccines at the health department.
Children who are uninsured or children who have Medicaid or CHIP are still eligible to receive vaccines at the department.
Julie Anderson, community health services director for the county health department, said the changes are in response to reductions in funds for vaccine purchases, increased federal scrutiny and accountability for publicly-funded vaccines, and increases in prices.
The local health department was only informed of the state-mandated changes on Tuesday afternoon, Anderson said, giving it five days to prepare. She suggested residents keep checking the department’s website “because they’ll be changes
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gives each state a certain amount of money to go toward vaccinations. Texas has been supplementing the allotted fund to expand the definition of “uninsured,” allowing more residents to obtain vaccines from the health department, Anderson said.
That addition allowed Texans who might have been in a tight financial spot, or were treated a physician who had run out of a vaccine, to receive the immunization at the health department.
However, the state has decided to realign itself with the federal definition of uninsured residents, which means people with private health insurance will have to return to their primary care physicians for immunizations.
Anderson said because flu vaccine is purchased with local funds, it will still be available for $20 to anyone older than six months.
The state did take into consideration the possibility of a lack of meningitis shots due to the passage of Senate Bill 1107 and is allowing the health department to continue giving adults 19 to 29 years old the shot through the end of January, Anderson said.
After the first month of the new year, students will have to go to their physician to receive it, she said.
Under the new bill, all Texas college and university students are required to receive the meningitis vaccine within five years of entering school. Before, students were required to receive the vaccine before school entry only if they were going to live on campus.
Gov. Rick Perry signed the Jamie Schanbaum and Nicolis Williams Act into law to require all incoming college freshmen to be vaccinated for bacterial meningitis.
Nicolis Williams, known as Nico, was living off-campus as a junior at Texas A&M University when he fell ill in February with an aggressive form of bacterial meningitis. His family fought for the legislation that resulted in the new vaccination requirement.
For more information on the new rules, call 361-4440, go to brazoshealth.org, or follow news at facebook.com/BrazosCountyHealthDepartment.