By SEAN RICE
New parents in Mercer County looking to provide their infant
with all the current vaccinations will have to shellout hundreds
of dollars for the newest pneumonia vaccine or wait until the
state gives a subsidy.
Some counties in Ohio and Indiana are apparently handing-out
the vaccine to whomever asks. In Mercer County, health department
officials are following the state’s rules and only providing
it to underinsured individuals.
The vaccine is designed to prevent strains of streptococcus
pneumoniae, (S. pneumoniae) a bacterium that causes meningitis,
ear, sinus and bloodstream infections. Deadly forms of S. pneumoniae
can become resistant to the top four antibiotics, one being
Mercer County/Celina City Health Board members have been discussing
this issue for the last two months. The high cost of the vaccine
and the chance of it expiring on the shelves has kept the department
from buying extra doses.
“It is ironic,” Mercer County Health Commissioner
Dr. Philip Masser told board members Wednesday. “Please
understand we’re under close scrutiny from the state on
how we use that vaccine.”
Many on the list of common vaccines are provided free to the
public, like those for measles, mumps and polio. Masser said
he’s had direct contact with the state, and Mercer County’s
small stock of the S. pneumoniae vaccine is to only be distributed
free to the underinsured.
Parents who want the new vaccine can always pay a private doctor
the approximate $280 cost per child.
“The track record of the state has been to say ‘we’re
going to try this on a segment of the population and see how
it works,’ ” Masser said.
“There is a need for this, it does prevent major disease
in kids,” Masser said. “I don’t think we have
it within our budget to go out and buy it.’
After discussion, Masser suggested the department buy extra
doses of the vaccine to be available for purchase, and he will
continue to “turn the screw at the state.”
In a separate matter of business, health board members decided
to give the seven department employees a 2.3 percent cost-of-living
raise, following the lead of the Mercer County Commissioners.
Also, the board decided after an executive session to give Director
of Environmental Health Michelle Kimmel a $1.50 per-hour raise
and Sanitarian Chris Miller is to receive a $1 per hour, in
addition to the percentage increase.