Flu Shot Economics

It cost me $15 to get my flu shot this morning. I suspect that it costs the health system much more than $15 per capita to deal with people who have the flu. Shouldn’t flu shots be free. And if they were, wouldn’t things net out to a savings for the province (and the Province)?

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Andrew's picture
Andrew on October 11, 2002 - 03:01

Well, Health Care in Canada is in place to help people who get sick, or hurt. They also offer sickness prevention, but a flu shot is a medication, and in Canada we all have to pay for our medication… Now, if you came down with the flu they would give you the shot for free, because you are already sick… But I think $15.00 is a small fee to pay to prevent getting the flu.

Oliver's picture
Oliver on October 11, 2002 - 04:06

Immunization seems to be an issue you can think about in several ways. Flu epidemics effects tons of people and are bad for the economy and for the lives of citizens in every which way. They outright kill a whole lot of old folks, and I suspect they kill immune-compromised people too. Is one supposed to ignore this fact because of a technicality in the mission statement of the institutions that deliver health care? Or does one take this as its own kind of thing, which is something similar to the purview of the police, the army, and the agencies that protect and monitor water quality, environmental safety/degredation etc? I think (and I guess Peter thinks) the second option makes more sense. The WHO conducts free immunization campaigns. We didn’t (nearly) rid the world of small pox by charging Somalis $15 per shot. They did it partly because everyone contributes to the spread of disease, whether or not they contribute to the cost of suppressing it. I think the economic argument for free vaccination might be compelling too. I suppose Peter’s comment “wouldn’t it be cheaper if…” is pointing out implicitly that you’d get more customers if you immunized at no charge, which would mean you’d have to make more vaccine, which might mean that the government might get a volume discount on making the stuff, which might be so large that the government would spend less money not only per person but less money all together vaccinating people at no charge instead of at $15 a pop (and this could happen if the government now is spending a lot more for each shot than the $15 it gets back, and if most of the excess is the cost of the vaccine and other expenses that might be reduced at high volume) . You’re content spending $15 for the shot, but you don’t know how much extra you’re paying for it in taxes, or how many people you could spare the flu by paying all of the cost through taxes and providing shots for free. Was that longwinded enough? Hey, but it’s free.

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