Public charge rule may deter immigrants from vaccinating kids, health officials say

Vaccination rates may fall among immigrant children when the federal government enacts a new public charge rule this October, physicians and public health officials told STAT.

The rule will allow the government to deny permanent residency to immigrants who have used public benefits such as Medicaid or food stamps for 12 months or more in a three-year period.

The policy does not identify vaccinations as a service that would qualify someone as a public charge. However, many families are confused about the new rule and forgoing healthcare services they are, in fact, entitled to, several healthcare experts told STAT.

"We've had incidents where mothers have refused infant child services, where children have been dis-enrolled from preventive health care benefits that they are eligible for," said Jeffrey Duchin, MD, chief of communicable diseases for the Seattle and King County (Wash.) Health Department. "And we fear that this is not an isolated issue, that throughout the community there's significant reluctance now and fear to access healthcare services that people need both to treat illness and to stay healthy."

To view STAT's full report, click here.

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