How to Get Free or Low-Cost Vaccines for Children

Immunizing a child shouldn't be a financial burden

Doctor giving patient a shot in office
Terry Vine/Blend Images/Getty Images

Children may receive up to 36 vaccines by the time they are four years old, including a yearly flu vaccine and everything else in the childhood immunization schedule.

Many of these vaccines -- especially newer vaccines like Prevnar and the rotavirus vaccines -- are rather expensive, which can make getting all of the vaccines difficult for children who are uninsured or underinsured.

Underinsured children may have insurance, but that insurance may not pay for immunizations, may not pay for certain vaccines or may have a cap or limit on how much vaccine coverage they have.

This can cause parents, especially cash-strapped ones, to delay getting important vaccines for their children.

No parent should have to choose between being able to make rent for the month or buy groceries or foot the bill for the child's immunizations. Because immunizations provide a public service, low-income parents have options when it comes to vaccinating their children for low or no cost.

Using these tips, learn how to find these vaccine programs.

Free Vaccines

Surprising to most parents, there are actually many places they can take their kids to get free vaccines. Keep in mind that some of these places do charge a small vaccine administration fee, though. These fees may range from $5 to $15 per vaccine or per visit.

If your children are uninsured or underinsured, places you might be able to get free vaccines include doctors who participate in the Vaccines for Children Program, a federally funded program that provides vaccines at no cost to physicians that they can give to children who might not otherwise be able to afford vaccines.

Many city or county health departments also offer free vaccines, but you should require within. The same goes for some WIC clinics for WIC-eligible children.

If the above options don't work out for you, try to find monthly immunization clinics sponsored by hospitals, schools, churches, etc. Your child's school in particular should be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to getting your child vaccinated.

Schools largely require that children be vaccinated to attend classes and have a vested interest in helping parents get children immunized as a result.

Vaccine Prices

How much would you have to pay for your child's vaccines if you had to pay full price without any help from insurance or a free vaccine clinic?

According to the Centers for Disease Control Vaccine Price List, to get all of the vaccines on the childhood immunization schedule that children need to start school, including a yearly flu shot, you could pay at least $1,200.

The actual amount would be even more, as that price is basically what your pediatrician pays for the vaccines and doesn't even include a vaccine administration fee. That's an overwhelming amount for most middle class families to pay for vaccinations, let alone low-income families.

Rather than direct money that could go towards food, clothing and school supplies for your child to immunizations, try to find community members or other parents who can help you find vaccines for low or no cost.


CDC. CDC Vaccine Price List. Accessed May 2009.

Continue Reading