Friday, December 05, 2008

Yellow Fever Vaccinations and Travel Medicine Clinics

Sad but true, the health care system in the US does not work well. One must be a vigilant consumer of health care services.

Later this month, I'm going to the coast of French Guiana. Circumstances dictate that I am required to get a yellow fever vaccination. According to the US Government's CDC website, there is a "low incidence of yellow fever in South America, generally a few hundred reported cases per year."

Strange it may seem but I need to get a yellow fever shot in order to spend a less than a day on a continent of 371,000,000 inhabitants which reports perhaps 400 yellow fever cases per year. It seems to me that I have a much better chance of being struck by lightning, coming under pirate attack or dying by getting hit on the head by a falling coconut.

But rules are rules, so a yellow fever shot I must get. I have very high deductible health insurance and since I've managed being run over by a truck so far this year, I must bear the full cost of vaccination.

I called my doctor who told me that I must go to a clinic that specializes in "travel medicine" since my doctor, (who is a fine physician,) doesn't handle tropical infectious diseases. Fine, I'll call around.

Travel Medicine Clinic A: $120 for the shot, plus $250 for a "consultation." I simply cannot imagine the need for a consultation about something like this. It seems absurd.

Travel Medicine Clinic B: $275 for the shot and a 15 minute consultation with "travel clinic" doctor.

I finally found that the city of St. Paul public health department has a nurse that will vaccinate me if I bring in a doctor's prescription and give them $100 cash money. Much better, but I have better uses for $100.

"Travel Medicine clinics" sound like a blatant marketing ploy, another example of a desperate and broken health care system.

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