You may have heard that the cost of several childhood vaccines has almost tripled. I would like to take this opportunity to explain why, what this price increase means, and, most important, what one concerned can do to reverse the trend of spiraling vaccine costs and maintain the strong immunization program children need.
Although vaccines effectively prevent diseases such as polio, mumps, measles, diphtheria and whooping cough, they carry a remote risk of causing adverse reactions. Because of the current trend toward product liability, the number of companies that make vaccines has shrunk to a handful, and these companies are unable to purchase insurance coverage. To protect themselves against the costs of litigation, the manufacturers have increased the price we pay for vaccines.
To give you an example of how these price increases affect us all, the cost of DTP (diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis) vaccine has risen over 3,200% since 1980 alone. The oral polio vaccine has increased almost 380% in the last five years. These vaccine costs, together with the other items of office overhead have led to the embarrassingly high cost of the vaccines we must give children. Although pediatricians are doing all we can to keep health-care costs down, this extraordinary price increase must be shared by you and other families in this practice.
Unless we all work together to reverse the spiraling cost of vaccines, many families may be unable to afford necessary vaccines. Immunization is one of the most effective services we can offer children to keep them safe from debilitating diseases. If children do not receive immunizations when they need them, the real cost of this dilemma will fall on society at large through loss of life and severe disability by a return to otherwise preventable childhood diseases.
I believe--as do all pediatricians--that a federally administered program providing lifetime financial support for medical and related expenses to children who are inadvertently injured through immunization will reduce excessive legal fees and, therefore, assure an adequate supply of affordable vaccines.
Congress is considering legislation that would create a national childhood vaccine compensation plan to do just that. With your support, it can be adopted this year. A community wide action is necessary to get legislators familiarized with the drama.
PIRUZ KHORVASH MD