Beginning Oct. 1, the Allegheny County Health Department no longer will offer free vaccinations to children through the age of 18 who already have health insurance.
But until that deadline, children can continue receiving the full battery of free vaccines at the department's clinic in Oakland, spokesman Guillermo Cole said.
New guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will allow the department to use federal funds to provide free vaccines only to uninsured children, those on Medicaid, or those who are American Indians or Alaskan natives.
All insured children must receive their vaccines through their health care provider.
"Basically, this means we can no longer be a clinic of convenience for the insured and can only be a clinic for the truly needy," Mr. Cole said.
The only exception is the influenza vaccine, which the department can continue offering for free to children and adults throughout the flu season.
The vaccines the health department will not provide to insured children, beginning Oct. 1, are diphtheria, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, Hib disease, HPV (human papillomavirus), measles, meningitis, mumps, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, polio, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus and varicella (chicken pox).
Last year, the health department provided 11,321 doses of vaccine to children for free. Of those, 5,482 doses were given to children who had health insurance.
"The number of kids coming to the clinic for vaccine will be cut in half, but children still have access to vaccine through their insurance plan," Mr. Cole said. "We want to emphasize that no one will be left out in the cold.
"This makes the nation's vaccination program more efficient."
The department's vaccination clinic, located at 3441 Forbes Ave., is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on all weekdays save for Wednesday, when the hours are 1 to 8 p.m., with free parking available after 4:30 p.m. in the lot behind 3333 Forbes Ave. No appointment is necessary. Parents and care-givers are reminded to bring their child's vaccination records to the clinic.
David Templeton: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1578.