Prices of vaccines–an uncomfortable discussion

Injection of FundsSuddenly, there has been a lot of noise about the price of vaccines. Well, there’s always been over-exaggerations and outright misinformation about vaccine prices and profits from the antivaccination gang, and they must be embarrassed by the quality of their arguments. OK, I doubt that. But there is noise out there.

But when the criticism comes from the “pro-vaccine” world, I needed to stand up and see what was being said. In my world of vaccines, I believe that anyone, especially children, who needs vaccines should get them for free. This is true in the USA (which leads the world in this one facet of healthcare), thus, any argument about vaccines costing too much falls rather flat to me. I hate dropping anecdotal data on my readers, but the fact is my health insurance plan, by no means some corporate executive level concierge plan, pays for all vaccines. In fact, I asked for one vaccination out of indication (meaning I was about 10 years too young to receive it), and the insurance company paid for it immediately and without question.

In the USA, the Affordable Care Act (best known as Obamacare) mandates vaccinations for adults and children with no out-of-pocket costs. Medicaid pays for vaccines. Medicare pays for vaccines, though the rules for payment are unnecessarily bureaucratic and confusing, unless the member is in Medicare Advantage. Maybe not as of today, but certainly soon, the cost of vaccines shouldn’t matter to the average rich or poor or middle-class American. And considering the number of lives saved by vaccines, this is an incredible and modern aspect of the USA health care system. Continue reading “Prices of vaccines–an uncomfortable discussion”

Vaccines save lives–even more evidence

Vaccines-save-lives;-fear-endangers-them.-It's-a-simple-message-parents-need-to-keep-hearing.One of my favorite tropes (of so many) of the vaccine denier gang is that vaccines are not effective, thereby implying that the limited usefulness is not worth the risks of vaccines, real or imagined. But the fact is vaccines do save lives in measurable and sometimes fascinating ways. Two peer reviewed papers, recently published, provided clear evidence of some of the ways vaccines directly save lives.

The first article analyzed the relationship between flu vaccines and reduction of cardiovascular events; while the second one examined how vaccines might reduce morbidity and mortality from pneumococcal meningitis.

Let’s start with the flu vaccine, which has a high safety profile and most people receive for the obvious reasons–flu prevention. However, we are aware of other benefits of the flu shot, including providing somewhat better outcomes during pregnancy. In an article published on 21 August 2013 examined a previously suspected, but not firmly established, benefit of the flu vaccine was examined. This study found that the risk of getting a heart attack was about 50% less amongst patients who were vaccinated against the flu compared to a group that was not.

Now, the study does not show that the flu vaccine has some miraculous anti-heart attack component, it might reduce the risk of catching the flu, or possibly reducing the severity of the infection, which reduces the risk of having a heart attack. In fact, the study’s original hypothesis was that catching the flu might actually increase the risk of a cardiovascular event, specifically a heart attack.

Furthermore, the researchers observed that the flu vaccine reduced heart attack risk even when the vaccine’s effectiveness was shown to be not very high. This conclusion itself debunks one of the huge myths of the antivaccination crowd (which is essentially that if it’s not 100% effective then we must conclude that it’s 0% effective, an application of the Nirvana logical fallacy); sometimes even when a vaccine isn’t completely effective, it still has some net positive effects. Continue reading “Vaccines save lives–even more evidence”

The benefits of immunization: reducing pneumonia hospitalizations

pneumonia_355pxIn this blog, I have spent an inordinate amount of time refuting claims from vaccine deniers about the effectiveness of vaccines (along with debunking claims about safety). Even if the safety claims were legitimate, and they are not, in general,  even close to being legitimate, the antivaccinationists give disproportionate weight to the adverse events over the actual benefits of the vaccination. For example, I just reviewed an article about non-medical exemptions to vaccinations, in which the authors concluded that, “the past several decades have seen a shift in parental concerns from disease prevention to vaccination risks, largely and paradoxically because of the success of large scale immunization.” 

But it’s much more than just ignoring the successes of vaccinations, sometimes the vaccine denier community will actually misrepresent and revise history, to make facetious, and easily discredited,  claims such as diseases were disappearing before vaccines. Sometimes, the vaccine refusers confuse mortality and morbidity, failing to understand how vaccines have reduced both. Or they just invent stories to show that the decline in infectious diseases was caused by anything but vaccines. Continue reading “The benefits of immunization: reducing pneumonia hospitalizations”

New 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine is safe

pneumonia_355pxA recent study, published in the journal Vaccine, provided evidence that the new 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) is as safe as the previous version, the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7). The newer version of the vaccine, introduced in 2010 after clinical trials, protects against a broader range of pneumococcus (Streptococcus pneumoniaea significant human pathogenic bacterium) subtypes. These studies show that the new version did not increase  the risk for any serious adverse events related to the vaccine.

Pneumococcal disease is a serious health care issue, especially for children and adults with certain risk factors. Pneumococcal disease can lead to various serious diseases like pneumonia and bacterial meningitis, or less serious ones like otitis media. Unfortunately, pneumococcal disease can be fatal. In some cases, it can result in long-term problems, like brain damage, hearing loss, and limb loss. Continue reading “New 13-valent pneumococcal vaccine is safe”