The Spark

the Voice of
The Communist League of Revolutionary Workers–Internationalist

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.”
— Karl Marx

Soaring Vaccine Prices = Bloody Scheming

Jul 21, 2014

Vaccination prices have soared from a few dollars to sometimes more than $100 in the last two decades. In 1986, the average cost for someone with insurance to fully vaccinate a child to the age of 18 was $100. Today, it costs more than $2,000, according to a Federal agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Because of such unthinkable prices, some doctors have stopped offering immunizations, explaining that vaccines are unaffordable and insurance companies often reimburse vaccine expenses poorly or even refuse to reimburse.

Childhood immunizations are vital to public health. Vaccines prevent childhood diseases and prepare young people for a healthy future. Vaccination of children also prevents diseases like flu from spreading in schools first and jumping to the elderly later.

The elderly need vaccines to extend their life span. For example, CDC recommends adults age 60 and older get the shingles vaccine to protect their body from reactivation of the chickenpox virus, which most people are exposed to during childhood.

Before, vaccines like the one for polio were developed not by companies, but through funding by the Federal government and government agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Today, public universities carry out most of the basic research and development of vaccines. That is, we still pay for the development of vaccines by our taxes.

In the past, because of low retail prices, the drug industry did not consider vaccines as a golden cash cow to extract lucrative profits. But after the health agencies started to advise the schools to require children to be vaccinated, the drug industry realized that they could reap huge profits out of vaccine manufacturing by inflating the prices.

For example, insurance companies pay doctors a median price of $145 a dose for Pfizer’s very popular vaccine Prevnar, according to Athena Health. Pfizer sells Prevnar at $3.30 per dose for use outside of the U.S. But even at $3.30, “I do not think pharmaceutical manufacturers are losing money,” says Dr. Hinman, a former CDC official.

Our vital need is turned into a profit machine in the hands of the drug industry. Vaccines are now so expensive that either doctors are not providing vaccinations or working class people are not able to afford them. Such crucial products for the working majority cannot be left to the whims of a few rich scheming people.