Objective.

Started in late 1994, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program is a major entitlement program that provides states with free vaccines for disadvantaged children. Some evaluation studies have been conducted, but they do not include individually matched pre-post comparisons of physician responses. This project studied the effect of the VFC on the physician likelihood of referring children to public vaccine clinics for immunizations.

Design.

In 1999, trained personnel conducted a survey of a cohort of physicians who previously participated in surveys on barriers to childhood vaccination conducted before VFC implementation. Responses were matched, and pre- versus post-VFC comparisons were made.

Setting and Participants.

Minnesota and Pennsylvania primary care physicians selected by stratified random sampling and initially studied in 1990 to 1991 and 1993, respectively.

Main Outcome Measures.

Likelihood of referral of a child to a public vaccine clinic.

Results.

On a scale of 0 to 10, physician likelihood of referring an uninsured child decreased by a mean of 1.9 (95% confidence interval: 1.2–2.5) from pre- to post-VFC. Two fifths (45%) of physicians reported that the VFC decreased the number of referrals from their practice to public vaccine clinics and 50% gave intermediate responses. Among physicians who participate in VFC, only 9% were likely to refer a Medicaid-insured child in contrast to 44% of those not participating.

Conclusions.

Physicians' reported referral and likelihood of referring Medicaid-insured and uninsured children has decreased because of VFC in Minnesota and Pennsylvania.vaccination/economics, vaccination/legislation and jurisprudence, immunization programs/economics, immunization programs/utilization, vaccines/economics, Medicaid/economics, national health programs United States, child health services.

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