Medical Priorities: A Shot in the Dark

Today’s New York Times carries an article about the rising costs of vaccines for children.

Twenty-five years ago, it cost about $59 (adjusted for inflation) to immunize one child against routine childhood diseases. That number has morphed into $1600 in today’s medical marketplace.

Granted, more vaccines have been added to the immunization schedule. Those most recently developed—the human papilloma virus (HPV) vaccine and the rotavirus vaccine—carry higher price tags as well. Yet reimbursement is inadequate to cover the costs of procuring, stocking and administering many vaccines.

As a result, some pediatricians aren’t offering the newer vaccines. Yet preventing disease and its sequelae through vaccination has been shown to be one of the most cost-effective public health measures.

Primary care physicians are feeling the economic pinch. As a result, fewer medical students are opting for careers in primary care medicine, electing instead to pursue training in one of the more lucrative subspecialties.

If the situation gets worse, we could see a breakdown in the national immunization program and a resurgence of preventable childhood illnesses.

Meantime, our nation’s leaders, those in Congress and the White House, spend millions of dollars annually on cosmetic dermatologic procedures so they can look their best for their constituents.

In the richest nation on the planet, where 43 million American citizens are not covered by health insurance, it’s time to prioritize healthcare expenditures in this country.

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