Recent proposals to reform immunization financing aim to help more children receive vaccines at their sources of primary care. Under the current system, referrals of children from the private sector may strain public immunization clinics, but scant information exists on what proportions of public clinic patients actually have insurance or primary care sources.
To describe the health insurance, usual sources of health care, and referral patterns of children at low-cost public immunization clinics. Cross-sectional study based on face-to-face, structured interviews. Of those with private insurance, almost one third had at least partial coverage for vaccines.
Most in this group named cost as the main barrier to immunizations at primary care sources; but one third of this group, including almost all the families insured by health maintenance organizations, named the wait for appointments at their usual source of care as the main barrier to receiving vaccines there. Financing reform may improve immunization delivery and reduce the load on public clinics. However, legislation to improve immunization financing will not achieve optimal results unless parent education is improved and organizational barriers are also removed.