Friday, July 06, 2007

Shots and Thoughts

We had been to the paediatrician a couple of days ago for the Little One's immunization shots. (DPT, Hep-B, Hib). The doc told us that there were two kinds of shots for this - a local one, costing Rs.850, and an imported one of Rs.2100. When asked what the difference was, he said that both served the same purpose, but the imported one was superior, and it resulted in less pain and fever.

Now, if it had been a material thing like a carry-cot or a pram, I could have inspected both and made an informed decison - that yes, the imported one is more comfortable and convenient, it is worth the extra money, or naaah, there is not too much difference between the two kinds, lets go in for the less expensive one.

But what could I do here but take the doc at his word? And after all, parents wants to give their child the best that is within their means, especially when it concerns health. So we opted for the imported, supposedly superior one.

I later asked an uncle of S, a well-known paediatrician (he stopped his practice a few years ago), and he said that yes, the imported vaccine truly has lesser side effects. If we had known earlier that we would be given a choice of vaccines, I would have discussed it with this uncle earlier, and we could have taken a confident, informed decision, rather than one based on sentiments. ;)

[And yes, the Little One hardly had any fever, and I doubt if she had much pain either. But she has been a little fussy since her shots, crying at the drop of a hat, but that's supposed to be normal.]

This episode set me thinking.

1) Forget the imported vaccine, but Rs.850 for the local one? Isn't that very expensive in itself? How many people in India can afford that? Does the government offer free immunization at government hospitals, or a subsidized version for the poorer section of the society? Does anybody know anything about this?

2) No wonder pharma companies have a gala time pricing their products exorbitantly. We the consumers have no idea about the products whatsoever, and when it comes to health, we are helpless, we just have to buy the products. Is there any hope for a transparent system where we know what we are buying, and how much it ought to cost? [Even as I write this, I say to myself, "Ha! High Hopes!"]

3) I realize that parents have this weakness - when it concerns the child, we tend to become blind, and spend any amount of money on the child. Manufacturers have identified this very weakness and have made excellent use of it. Have you seen how expensive baby stuff is? 800 rupees for a teeny tiny frock!! One I can make at home in less than 50 rupees?? One which the baby will outgrow in a month? What kind of madness is that? Even with all that knowledge, I look at the frock, imagine the Little One in it and think, "Ohhhh she'll look so cute in it!" We are getting fleeced.

Any thoughts?


Altoid said...

Interesting topic! Firstly, glad to hear little one is doing fine.

Isnt this the same as asking for exhorbitant amounts for special access at Tirupati to see the same God that serves the rich or the poor, the fair or the dark, irrespective of caste? While the ones that cant afford to pay "whatever the amount is now" to avoid standing in serpentine lines, some just get to traipse in.

And so many other health related disoarity. In one sense I am glad SOMEthing is available for the ones that cannot afford such high prices.

Anonymous said...

Dear Shruthi,
Welcome to the world of inequalities aka baby world. You will encounter issues from 1 month of baby till...16 where you need to excercise these kind of mad decisions.

a)The vaccine irrespective of local/imported need to be maintained at refrigeration temperature otherwise at any cost - it will not work. Just hope it works - this is something my padeatrician told me!!

b) Going along there are many shots which are of similar nature - some cost me 2000 INR - no local option there though.

c) The pharma companies are the real culprits. They palm you off their trademark medicine at lower cost when the medicien is old/banned in western countries for too many sideeffects. We as being 3rd world conturies are truely 3rd rate people using thier medicines.

D) Govt except for polio drops, does not even help with saline packs for needy and mortality rates of kids in india is 4th lowest - most dont see their 3rd birthday more so in case of baby girls due to malnutrition.

I shed a drop of blood when I went thourgh similar things for my junior instead of tears - just thinking of those million human beings who are denied the essential drugs just because they were born in 3rd world countries. Think of africa and I bleed literally!!

Good post to touch upon a humane issue like this. There are cases where the vaccination has killed or blinded the kid administred in Govt hospital which was contaminated. Who cares?

parijata said...

Glad to know that the little one is doing well.
About vaccines, I think the same way too. The prices of the vaccines are extremely high. Every time I visit the pediatrician, I have this uncomfortable feeling in my stomach, looking at the kids playing at a construction site next door, who probably have no access to any sort of healthcare.

I got my little one vaccinated against the pneumococcal virus (priced at four grand), thinking all the while that it would be better for him to develop the immunity naturally and not with the help of vaccines.

The government does not help with the funding for the polio drops, afaik. Of course, the government health officials, nurses and volunteers have a huge role in polio vaccination, but it is the UNICEF which actually provides the money for the vaccination.
Why go all the way to Africa? We have enough disasters happening in our backyard. (I did not want to sound selfish, really!)

Anonymous said...

i still remember, when my parents took me to take the polio shots. they were so tasty tht i asked the doctor, can if i have'em again :)

Anonymous said...

"Have you seen how expensive baby stuff is? 800 rupees for a teeny tiny frock!! ...."

Ahh..Welcome aboard to the anxious parents plane


Shruthi said...

Altoid, yes, that thought occurred to me too. Unfair really.

Mohan, whoa what an eye-opener of a comment!

Parijata, how true.... let alone construction workers, think of people who struggle to earn a decent living - these vaccines must really make a huge dent in their budgets.... its very sad.

Maverick, oh! I don't even remember taking those polio drops :) My kid for sure did not like it.. she made a very nasty face :))

Ajith, sigh... so I have realized!

rajeev said...

As far as I know, govt does provide free vaccinations, but against a few diseases only. DPT is included , but not Hib or Hep-B.
About the pain and fever with DPT vaccination, it gets worse as the kids grow. My son had a bad time when he got his DPT booster at 5. 5 years later, with our daughter, we had the option of the less painful 'imported' one, and she sailed through it much better. Our doc said (with a smile) that the 'P' in DPT stands for pain. The imported one is named DTAP - attenuated pain. Efficacy wise, both are the same.

Shark said...

"No wonder pharma companies have a gala time pricing their products exorbitantly"

Do you think anything at all is fairly priced? *sigh*

@mohan: It's not the plight with only 3rd world countries... even in the so called developed countries people still can't afford good medical care. The only difference is that they (parents)end up taking more and more jobs to earn money enough to pay for medical insurance. And here, we have to take debts to pay for our kids medical care :(

Veena Shivanna said...

Now i know why we keep saying, My dad was so comfortable taking care of 4 kids and we think so much to take care of 1 or 2.
Looking at it, it sounds like this needs a budget revamp and now companies should start giving some extra allowances(not the reimbursement) for the baby medical care, specially vaccination.
That vaccine which had lesser side effects, that was good.. Hope she had no/less hazzles taking it.
Wish her good time.

praneshachar said...

vaccinations etc., you had no choice but to pay for the best.
but for other things you can have a choice unless you have some crazy ideas that you must by only from a branded shop etc., things are available and as shruthi said you can make one at house at a very low cost and you can not compare the happiness you get when you put the one you have made on your baby. no money's worth can compensate. but every one can not do it due to so many modern day constraints like job etc., you can get children stuff at affordable prices also any how in the beginning years be wiser as the child grows fast and u have to use them for a short period. so buy a mix of both high and low and use them according to requirements and seasons. everthing is costly
baby foods is another thing but if you can give house made baby food nothing better than this. we have all cereals and make a very good food for baby and also have satisfaction of home made one
all the best for Little A I am sure
she will have a mix of all


chitra said...

Hepatitis b : government is doing its level best and had many campaigns and gave free injections to the needy.

During my son;'s time, the inoculation costed around 250/- which itself we felt were v.costly .

Regarding pharma companies, the less said the better. I just read an article where they pay crores of money to the doctors to promote their medicine , and the doctors blindly prescribe them. Besides, chemists also insist they now better and give a medicine of different company claiming they both are the same. the situation itself is v. frightening. :(

Usha said...

I hope there is a valid reason why children's medicines are so expensive - perhaps they need to take care of so many side effects, be mild yet be effective etc. I hope so.
But their clothes and toys - that is sheer robbery. They know that kids are a parent's weakness and they are just leveraging on that- quite successfully too.

Crumbling Cookie said...

Great post and it echoes my feelings completely.
We like to make informed decisions about most things in our lives, so why should vaccinations be any different. Specially when there is so much information available readily.
When the doc sprang pneumococcal vaccine (a whopping Rs 4000), and insisted that it THE vaccine to get, I asked for time to research it. I am glad because I found that its not at all mandatory for a country like India, and it does not offer 100% protection against all variants of the germ.
1) Govt hospitals here in Delhi offer the vaccines in the Universal Immunization Schedule free of cost. Of course that schedule does not include hep B, varicella, MMR, pneumococcal vaccines.
2) I think it would have be a seperate regulatory body to look into consumer interests. Not sure if anything like this exists?
3) Oh yes! Have lived and now outgrown "oh she'll look cute in this". And quickly at that. Now she just looks cute!

Sorry for the megacomment, I looked for an email id to send this to, but couldn't find one.

dev said...

the great misconception..!!

if its costly.. its probbalby good.!
i just hate ppl with that mentality..

Anonymous said...

Hey Shruthi, its been a long time...hope you're having a great time with the Lil One!

While we're on the topic of being fleeced, there was this ad or info video doing the rounds on TV channels recently, one that told us that we could bargain for a lower price even on the MRP (its supposed to be "MAXIMUM" retail price and not the minimum). How many of us knew this and even when we know now, do the bargaining bit?

Think of all those supposedly classy handicraft stores that sell Ganesha wall hangings made of papier mache at exorbitant prices (the one in question was priced at Rs. 3800)and imagine my great surprise and delight to get an identical one at Borivli station for Rs. 200 only!!

Just goes to show how ignorant we are and how we can be taken advantage of....anyway, enough ranting...Shruthi, don't know if it is appropriate to ask if there are pics of the Lil One forthcoming...Take care.

Unknown said...

Very interesting topic. I am an Indian living in Australia and the government provides all immunisation uptil the age of four free of charge. THis is in order to ensure that basic health needs for children do not remain dependent on affordability.

It is vey sad to think that you cannot afford the basics for your child. Every parents love towards their child is equal - imagine what it must do to their self worth when they cannot afford this.

It would be good if UNICEF or WHO would subsidise vaccines for poor people.

Regarding the other costs - you are right - I just saw a knitted sweater for $75 - I refuse to pay such amount for something my son will wear twice.

Anonymous said...



It is an EYE OPENER.


Anonymous said...

Shruthi, Mysore gu bangalore gu eshTu difference.. Here it costed 620/- My PED didn't give options like imported or local.. He just said, all in one (DPT, HIB, HEP B) its called Easy Five.. We got him that, he was okay. just a little fever on the next day and doctor had asked us to administer him crocin :-)

- -