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 to provide routine immunizations with little to no out-of-pocket costs to the parents. There are two federal VFC programs administered in Illinois: Chicago VFC-Plus (for providers in the City of Chicago ) and Illinois VFC-Plus (for providers outside the City of Chicago ).
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a federally funded, state administered program that provides free vaccines to eligible children ages 18 and younger. Vaccines are provided free at no cost to the provider or the patient, although providers may charge an administration fee. Eligible children include the following:
- Children who have or are eligible for All Kids/Medicaid
- Children with no health insurance
- American Indian or Alaska Native children
- Children who are underinsured**
Underinsured children are defined as those children who have private health insurance which does not include coverage of vaccines. A child whose health insurance covers only select vaccines or caps the vaccine cost at a certain limit is categorized as underinsured.
Underinsured children in Illinois can only receive VFC vaccines through a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC), a Rural Health Clinic (RHC) or a local health department (LHD).
Privately insured patients are NOT eligible to receive VFC vaccine and must only be vaccinated with privately acquired vaccines.
VFC Program Changes for CHIP
Effective October 1, 2016, the VFC program will no longer provide vaccines for children who have All Kids insurance, the state’s Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage (referred to as Title XXI  or “State Funded”). Participants through age 18 with Medicaid coverage (referred to as Title XIX ) are VFC eligible and may continue to receive vaccines through the VFC program.
HFS will issue a provider notice that contains detailed billing and process information in the near future. The VFC program and HFS will offer two webinars in September to review the changes and provide detailed billing and process information.
Determining if your patient is eligible to receive VFC vaccine
It is the responsibility of providers to screen patients to ensure that fully insured patients do not receive Federally-supplied VFC vaccine. (Providers should encourage patients to review insurance benefits when scheduling, have staff check benefits, etc.) If a patient arrives for an appointment and is still unsure of vaccine coverage, vaccination should be deferred until insurance coverage question(s) can be answered. Use this decision tree to help you determine if the patient is eligible to receive VFC vaccine or not.
Who do I contact for more information about the VFC program?
For more information about VFC Illinois (outside of Chicago), please contact:
Linda Kasebier, M.P.H., M.S.H.S.
Vaccine For Children Administrator
Illinois Department of Public Health
525 W. Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
For more information about VFC Chicago, please contact:
Marcia Levin, MPH
Vaccine For Children Program Manager
Chicago Department of Public Health
2160 W Ogden Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60612
ICAAP Immunization Initiatives focus on immunization education for providers, policy, and advocacy developed in collaboration with the Chicago Department of Public Health and the Illinois Department of Public Health.