Thursday, August 13, 2009

It's all about the money.

I know that's a very cynical perception, but in some cases, it's just the plain truth.

A little while ago, the phone rang. I saw on the caller ID that it was our health insurance company, so I answered. It was an automated voice telling me, the parent of Finnian M. (this was specified), that it has come to the attention of our insurance carrier that Finnian may be late on receiving some childhood vaccines, and that they advise me to remedy this immediately by calling our pediatrician to schedule an appointment to make sure that all of his vaccines are up to date.

To say that Finn is "late" on receiving some vaccines is an understatement. We have chosen not to have him vaccinated at all. So he hasn't received a singe vaccine.

All of our other kids are vaccinated according to the recommended schedule. For a long time, I never questioned it. Sure, I had a few stray friends who didn't vaccinate their kids, or engaged in "selective" and/or "delayed" vaccinations. I buried my head in the sand, choosing to blindly go forth as I had been doing, because sometimes examining what you're doing and realizing that you haven't really put a lot of thought into it, is just too difficult. But by the time Lilah was born, I was seriously questioning vaccines, and I had already gotten to the point of saying "No thanks" to newer vaccines that haven't been around long enough to have any kind of track record.

When I was pregnant with Finn, I really struggled about the vaccination issue. I had dug my head out of the sand far enough by that time to do some research and to realize that vaccines aren't always what they're cracked up to be. And there's the whole possible link between vaccines and neurological issues (and I would say that the fact that there is a government fund set up specifically to pay out to people who have been injured by vaccines goes a long way in showing that it's at least possible that the link is real). When Finn was born, and we learned that he has Down syndrome, it added a whole new layer of stress to the decision of whether or not to vaccinate: on the one hand, there is the argument that because he has Ds, his immune system is compromised, which would make vaccinating him against disease all the more imperative. On the other hand, the fact that he may have a compromised immune system could be reason enough to avoid vaccinations, as it is possible that he could be at more risk than average of suffering a neurological injury from a vaccine. It might be interesting to note that most pediatricians will not give vaccines to a child who is sick, say with a cold or the flu, for the very reason that their immune system is weakened and they therefore may not handle the vaccination well.

So Michael and I struggled with this and ultimately decided that the risk of Finn suffering a neurological injury from a vaccine was greater than the risk of his actually contracting a disease from which he could be vaccinated against. His brothers and sisters are all vaccinated, so he's not going to catch anything from them. He's not in daycare, so he's not exposed to lots of other children and their cooties. At some point, when Finn is older and bigger and stronger, we may selectively vaccinate him. But for now, we are completely comfortable with our decision to not have him vaccinated.

But this isn't a post arguing the merits of vaccinating vs. not vaccinating. It's a personal decision, and one that every parent needs to make for their own children, hopefully armed with accurate facts so that the decision is a truly informed one.

What this post is about is the last thing that automated voice told me on the phone today: "Funding for this call has been provided by Wyatt Pharmeceuticals." Uh huh, I thought so.

I imagine that the pharmeceutical companies get lists of babies born and somehow keep a database of who has received which of the vaccinations they produce, and when. And I have no doubt that they get paid for every vaccination given to a child.

Is Wyatt Pharmeceuticals really concerned about Finnian's well-being? Is Anthem-Blue Cross? I kinda don't think so.


Khourt said...

Ok I can understand them doing that if it was really about caring for the patient blah blah blah but just reading this pisses me off.. Wow!! I am so glad I have not received one of those calls. I would personally send a letter to the company telling them how much I think that phone call stinks.

Leigh Anne said...

i can't believe you received a call like that?! we delay them, but i know she's has definitely not had all that are expected at this age...and no phone call. i would be surprised if we did get one though. i know after looking and looking for a mumps vaccine (with no avail), when i called the health dept to see if they had it, the lady on the other end had no words for me as i explained to her how we were splitting the mmr and how we were homeschooling (that came up b/c I got the "you know they have to have that to attend school, don't you?!" query.)

and i don't disagree that someone somewhere is making tons of money on each vax given...

Anonymous said...

They have to make money. That is how pharmaceutical companies fund future research--you know, life-saving medications..important medications that patients need on a daily basis. There is a lot of good that pharma companies do. They have to charge for things, all pharma companies are for-profit and are not non-profit. Come on, knew that.

Linda said...

I'm guessing that anonymous is being sarcastic. At least I hope so.

Keri said...

Wow. So this practice has spread from vets to MDs? I get crap calls, postcards and letters from (former) vets all the time because I choose NOT to vaccinate my dog yearly (except for rabies as required by law).

Honestly, the amount pharm companies get from vaccines is miniscule compared to what they shell out to hawk their products to doctors. When I worked in a rheumatology research lab, the Pfizer rep used to bring us ice cream and candy bars every other week- like our boss was going to listen to 3 grad students and a tech about which drug to treat his patients with!

Lisa said...

Phew, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought Anonymous's comment was rather rude.

You know what really chaps my hide? When someone hides behind "Anonymous" like that. It's just chickenshit. Especially if you're going to address me by my first name as if you know me. At least have the spine to tell me who you are.

Yes, I'm aware that pharmaceutical companies are for profit. I'm aware that they do a lot of good for a lot of people. I also know that there are a lot of arguments out there about just how big their profits are, and at whose expense.

Anyway, it seems that you missed the whole point of my post, Anonymous. My point was NOT that pharma co's should not "charge for things." My point was that I don't appreciate a pharmaceutical company pushing their drugs on my baby so they can make sure they're getting his share of their profit, under the guise of a caring phone call from my insurance company.

I'm glad we got that clarified.

I really need to learn to ignore the jerks.

ds.mama said...

I for one think it is creepy that you even got this call. It may have been paid for by a pharma co, but it was delivered by your ins co... nice teamwork (yes, that is sarcasm ;-) It is very big brother-ish that your ins co is keeping track of and flagging who isn't getting vaccs. I'd be interested to know if this would become an issue if Finn did by some crazy twist get say... Rubella and then have complications from it... would they (could they?) refuse to pay for his care...?

Btw, I still struggle with this issue. Every time we go to the ped and they remind me... I stress.

Anonymous said...

The reason why I went anonymous is because you do not need to know who I am. I am not a public person, I do not have a public blog about my life. You do and I respect that. I respect what you are doing with your children, I think that you are a great mother, wife and person. I do, I truly do. I think that your children are adorable, sweet and truly precious. But there are just so many things that I do not agree with but I RESPECT your decisions. For instance, I would not breastfeed a child this long especially if they are not eating solids well: I donot believe that a woman is able to provide all the vitamins and minerals from breastmilk this far away from the pregnancy- no person in the United States eats well enough/healthy enough to provide for the child that way. I hope that Finn would be on Polyvysol vitamins at least. I do not agree with not vaccinating kids but once again, I respect your thoughts on your choices. I would not post semi-naked photos of my little girl on the Internet as I think that there are too many creepy people out there. I would not deliver a child at home- what is something goes wrong and medical intervention is needed? Too risky in my opinion. But these are my thoughts, and yours are clearly different...and that is OK...but since your blog provides an opporunity to write, why could I not? Make it private then. But again, I read your blog and I respect you and your family...and I enjoy reading a different perspective, even if I do not agree with lots of it.

And yes, pharma companies make a lot of money..and they have too. It takes close to 800 billion dollars for a single drug to come out on the market and about 1 in 15 compounds ever make it to the market. So you see, lots of money is needed. Could they pay the reps less? Yes, I know that they could because we are completely overpaid, I would not disagree there. We make more than most family practitioners, especially the younger ones. But that's just how it is. It is a free country and every company sponsors and advertises. So that's just how it is until Obama tries to change that. Maybe!

And lastly, I did not disrespect you and did not want to, either. Just different thoughts being expressed. Once again, free speech and understand that not everybody will agree with you.

Lisa said...

Anonymous, thank you for respecting my choices that are different than ones you would make. I really think if you are going to address me by my first name, it would be polite to sign your first name so that I may address you in the same manner. But whatever.

I have to wonder how much you've actually educated yourself about these issues. How much do you actually know/understand about extended breastfeeding? And assuming for the sake of argument that feeding my son synthetic, chemical-laden formula would benefit him more than human milk which is specifically suited for him and changes as his needs change (did you know that?), how would you propose that I get the formula into him when he does not take a bottle and has not yet mastered a cup or straw? You also can't make an assumption about my diet. Your statement that "nobody in the United States eats well enough/healthy enough to provide for the child that way" is such a gross generalization. How do you think you have any idea what my diet is like? As for homebirth, I have to assume that you know very little about that either. I would hate for anyone to assume that any of these decisions - extended breastfeeding, no vax, homebirth - are ones I made lightly. I spend an incredible amount of time researching my options and based on what I learned from many different sources, I made (along with my husband) the choices that we feel are in the best interests of our children and family. I gave birth to 4 of my children in a hospital and 2 at home, and I can tell you that based on my experience as well as all the information I have regarding safety, mortality, etc., I would never choose a hospital birth again unless it was absolutely medically necessary. You might be interested to know that WHO (the World Health Organization) endorses the midwifery model of care and out-of-hospital births for low-risk pregnancies and births - and qualified midwives are perfectly capable of screening low risk from high risk. WHO also endorses breastfeeding for a child's first TWO years.

I am left with the impression that you work for a pharma co. This would explain your stance, especially on breastfeeding. Pharma co's are behind the formula manufacturers. That's pretty well known.

As for free speech, I don't think using somebody else's blog as a forum to express YOUR ideas and opinions is appropriate. You should have your own blog for that - whether private or public.

Anyway, no hard feelings. Thanks for taking an interest in my blog.

Liz said...

I am still breastfeeding almost two years later and thank goodness for that or Cael would be dead. I am sorry there is such ignorance out there about breastmilk and extended breastfeeding - not to mention homebirth and vaccines.

as to your original post - yikes. I saw a friendly reminder to get your kids vaccinated on the bus and it ruined me for the rest of the day. Why? Because it appeared to be a friendly reminder from the city but in reality it was sponsored by the pharmaceutical companies. That creeps me out.