Cost of vaccines have risen drastically

April 8, 2009
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The monetary value of the vaccines that will be given in Kent County this year will nearly double the figure from last year.

In 2008, the Kent County Health Department distributed $3.3 million worth of vaccines that were paid for by the federal government. In 2009, the department will add another $2.7 million worth of federally funded vaccines to its delivery system, which includes 98 private providers throughout the county.

This year, the vaccines given to Kent County residents, mostly children, could reach a value of $6 million. If that figure is attained, it would be a new monetary record.

"It's the increase of '08 plus an estimate of the increase of what '09 will be. It's still a significant increase but it's kind of a two-year increase because we don't get that information from the state until the last day of October," said Gail Brink, finance director for the health department.

Figuring all this out can be a headache at times for Brink. The health department is one of a handful of county divisions that follow the same fiscal year as the state, from Oct. 1 to Sept. 30, while the county uses the calendar year as its fiscal year. That means Brink and her staff have to juggle adjustments to the department's budget every year.

Brink went before the county commission in February to get the board's OK to appropriate the additional $2.7 million of federally funded vaccines that will be delivered to the health department by the state and then distributed to residents this year.

Still, why such a dramatic increase in such a short time? There are three answers: One, the department has more children to vaccinate. Two, new vaccines have hit the market. Three, the cost of vaccines has risen— which is directly related to the previous answer.

Using data supplied by the state, Brink said the average cost of a vaccine is $33 a dose this year. At the end of 2006, she said the average dose cost $22.73. In only two years, the average cost has risen by 45 percent.

"That's an $11 dollar jump and almost a 50 percent increase in the cost. So that's very significant," she said.

Brink said a reason for the jump is new vaccines have debuted over that time and have pushed the average cost up. One is the controversial human papillomavirus vaccine that prevents cervical cancer and is given to 11- and 12-year-old girls.

HPV is nearly the most expensive at $136 a dose, second only to the rabies vaccine, and the immunization process requires three doses that triple the cost to $408. Meningococcal meningitis is another. It costs $105 a dose. Another is varicella, the most recent chicken pox vaccine, at $88 a dose.

"Any time you have a new vaccine introduced, it's very pricey," she said. "Those are new vaccines that have been brought into the mix here in the last few years, and that will drive the price up. Besides, we all know that the cost of drugs is really increasing, as well."

Eventually, the cost of the new vaccines will drop as more are given and the patents run out, which will allow less expensive generic versions into the market. But at the same time, newer ones also are likely to be released and raise the cost of an average dose again.

But there is help with the cost. Those without insurance or who have a plan that doesn't have drug coverage may qualify for free vaccines through the Vaccines for Children program or the Michigan Vaccine Replacement Program. The health department has more information on both. Brink said the number of the people here that are uninsured or underinsured has increased the last few years and more are applying for the programs.

Brink said the department gave 101,000 doses at the end of 2006, and at the end of 2008, the number soared to 148,000. So while the average cost of a dose rose by 45 percent over that period, the number of doses given rose by 46 percent.

"There are new vaccines along with more people requesting them. So it's kind of a combination of the two," she said

Brink said the department closely tracks the type and number of immunizations it gives. But the agency can't keep such a watchful eye on other vaccine providers. So the state runs down those numbers.

"They send us the number of doses and the value. So how many children does that represent? I really don't have that number," she said. "But with the number of doses out there, we can only assume it's an increase in the number of people receiving vaccines.

"With that huge of an increase (in doses), there's no way that increase could happen just because of the new vaccines. That was such a large increase. That kind of spike wasn't just because of the new vaccines that are available. It's the number of people that are receiving the vaccines, as well." HQ

The vaccine price list

Here are the vaccine prices as of Jan. 1 from the Kent County Health Department’s Community Clinical Services program.

Vaccine
Diphtheria & Tetanus
Diphtheria, Tetanus & Pertussis
Hepatitis A
Hepatitis B
Haemophilus Influenza Type B
Human Papillomavirus
Immune Globulin
Influenza
Measles, Mumps & Rubella
Memingococcal Meningitis
Pediarix
Pneumococcal Conjugate PCV7
Pneumococcal Polysaccharide PPV23
Polio (IPV)
Rabies
TB Skin Test
Tetanus & Diphtheria
Tetanus, Diphtheria & Pertussis
Typhim Vi (Typhoid injection)
Typhoid (oral)
Varicella (Chicken Pox)
Yellow Fever

Child
$34
$26
$25
$22
$26
$136
$42
$22
$57
$105
$66
$94
$43
$33
$157
$13
$30
$45
$57
$49
$88
$90

Adult
NA
NA
$29
$35
$26
$136
$42
$22
$57
$105
NA
NA
$43
$33
$157
$13
$30
$45
$57
$49
$88
$90

Note: A child is anyone 18 or younger. An adult is anyone 19 and older.

Source: Kent County Health Department, Community Clinical Services, January 2009.

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