In our connected world, infectious diseases and viruses can spread more quickly than ever before in history. The global population is now connected through metropolitan cities, international travel, and even local transit. Thankfully, as the world becomes more of a “global village”, scientists and governmental organizations concurrently make medical advancements and adopt strategies to reduce, and even cure, the rapid onset of viruses and diseases.
Despite many advances, the threat of a virus pandemic is very real, even in the United States. The most current example is the ebola virus outbreak in West Africa in 2014. More than 1800 people have contracted and died from the virus in areas like Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. There have also been records of the virus in Nigeria and Senegal. International organizations like the World Health Organization and The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention constantly monitor outbreaks such as these that without the proper strategy and medical treatment can spread globally, potentially killing millions.
The development of vaccines has been effective in defending against viruses and diseases – everything from the common flu to polio. For many around the world, vaccines are essential in areas where the threat of infection is very high, especially for children and the elderly. But with any product developed by a for-profit company, even with something as essential as a vaccine, there is a significant cost. According to a 2014 article published in The New York Times, the price of vaccines are soaring – in the last two decades, the price of vaccines has risen from single digits to triple digits. The article reports that some doctors can not purchase the “potentially lifesaving preventive treatments that insurers often reimburse poorly, sometimes even at a loss.” However, Dr. Lindsay Irvin, one medical professional who is committed to providing vaccines, had to mortgage her house to offset the rising costs of her stored vaccines that can total up to $70,000.
The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention has updated their list of vaccine costs for both children and adults in August 2014. The prices per dose can be surprising and even overwhelming for patients, particularly those without insurance. Here, based on the information provided by the CDC, we list and explain the most expensive vaccines in 2014.
10. MMR – $56 per dose
The MMR vaccine is a three-in-one protection against the mumps, measles and rubella. It is administered to children typically after their first birthday to provide them general life-long immunity to the diseases. In many states in the United States, the vaccine is mandatory for children attending school. Measles and mumps cause flu-like symptoms such as cough, fever, and headache. They can be life-threatening without the vaccine or sufficient natural immunities. Rubella is extremely dangerous for pregnant women. The average cost per dose is $56.
9. Havrix – $64 per dose
The Havrix vaccine protects against Hepatitis A, a virus can be transmitted via food or drink that causes inflammation of the liver. It can also be transmitted through unprotected sex. The virus is noticeable within two months of contracting it with symptoms like fatigue, nausea, abdominal pain and fever. The vaccine is administered before the onset or infection of the virus. The CDC recommends people take the vaccine before travel to exotic countries. The average cost per dose is $64.
8. Pentacel – $80 per dose
The Pentacel vaccine is administered in a series of 4 doses to children between birth to six-years old. The vaccine is a combined protection against both DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio) and HiBb (haemophilus influenzae type B). According to Pentacel, the vaccine is the first in North America to offer immunization against both groups of virus. Common symptoms for babies after injection is redness of the injection area, swelling, crying, and some fever. The vaccine has been administered to over 5000 infants in North America for an average price of $80 per dose.
7. Twinrix – $93 per dose
The Twinrix vaccine protects the body from hepatitis A and B by helping the immune system create its own antibodies to fight any infection. It is typically meant for people from the ages of 1 and 18 years of age. To get the vaccine, people must visit a qualified health professional and have it injected into their muscle through an intramuscular injection, which is a quite common alternative to intravenous injection. Side effects of the vaccine for both adults and children include pain, redness of skin, nausea, and vomiting. The vaccine is important for protection against hepatitis A and B, but it is expensive at an average cost of $93 per dose.
6. Menactra – $112 per dose
The Menactra vaccine protects against both meningococcal meningitis and meningococcal sepsis. Meningococcal disease is caused by the neisseria meningitides bacteria and can be extremely dangerous for those who contract it. It has been known to have a high mortality rate. Parts of the body severely infected by the disease are the lining of the brain and spinal cord. The vaccine is administered to people from 9 months to 55-years of age. It can be effective in reducing the chances of contracting such a severe and potentially life-threatening disease; however, the side effects include diarrhea, and headache. The average price per dose is $112.
5. Prevnar 13 – $135 per dose
Prevnar 13 is administered to infants to protect them from a range of disease such as meningitis, sepsis, pleural empyema, bacteraemia, and bacteraemic pneumonia. Since the original Prevnar 7 that protected people from the seven strains of the Streptococcus pneumoniae bacteria, Prevnar has added six more since the discovery of them. The vaccine can be administered is several dose cycle depending on the age of the person and medical guidelines.
4. Gardasil – $141per dose
Gardasil is the only vaccine that protects against the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, so common that most men and women can contract it without ever knowing. However, extreme effects of the virus can include genital warts and even cancer. For women, the vaccine can protect against 2 types of HPV that cause up to 75% of cervical cancer cases. For men, the vaccine can protect against up to 90% of genital warts cases. Gardasil is one of the most expensive vaccines on in America at $141 per dose.
3. Varicella – $157 per dose
Varicella vaccine protects from the varicella virus, otherwise known as chicken pox, one of the most common viruses in the wold. The chickenpox virus is known for its itchy red bumps that inflate and irritate the skin. The virus can be fatal if contracted by infants or the elderly. The vaccine has been in use in the United States since 1956 and has been responsible for the dramatic decrease of death or serious ailments due to chickenpox. Although a very common vaccine, its price is among the highest in the States at $157 per dose.
2. ProQuad – $158 per dose
Another protection against varicella and other serious diseases is ProQuad. It is a brand-name vaccine that protects children 12 months to 12 years of age from measles, mumps, and rubella. According to their website, children should use caution when using the ProQuad vaccine if they have a history of seizure or stress from fever. The vaccine is typically administered through one dose, although a second dose may be needed. This commercially-produced MMR vaccine is second on the list as one of the most expensive vaccines at $158 per dose.
1. Zostavax – $174 per dose
The Zostavax vaccine is an FDA-approved vaccination for shingles. It can help prevent and protect from shingles for people 50 years of age of older. However, it is not successful in 100% of cases. Also known as herpes zoster, shingles is a serve skin rash caused by the varicella virus, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Chances of getting the disease is significantly higher as people get older. Zostavax is given in one dose and works by boosting the immune system. The most common side effects of the vaccine are pain, swelling, itching, and bruising. Zostavax is a commercially-produced vaccine that can cost its users up to $174 per single dose.