Cost of travel vaccinations could sting

Doctors specializing in travel medicine are sounding the alarm about a steep increase in the price of some vaccines.

Starting in June, it will cost up to three times more for vaccines against diseases such as yellow fever and meningococcal meningitis.

Most travel-related vaccines aren't covered by provincial health plans.

A group of doctors is worried people will forgo the vaccinations and risk contracting diseases they could bring back to Canada when they return.

Ruby Woode is planning to take her two children back to her native country of Ghana, in West Africa next month. The three were vaccinated against yellow fever last week at a cost of more than $100.

Woode says she would have vaccinated her children, but not herself, if she hadn't beaten the price increase. "I don't have my mother here. I don't have my father here. I'm taking my kids to go see their grandparents. And if I have to pay this much I'd rather risk it," she said.

That's exactly the kind of dangerous decision that worries travel medicine physicians, including Dr. Mark Wise. He says many travellers will likely pick and choose among diseases, because they can't afford every recommended vaccine.

"Sometimes people might choose the wrong disease. And a disease may be very rare, but it may be very serious, whereas something more common is treatable. It's hard to pick. Even as a doctor I'd have trouble picking."

Wise and dozens of other doctors across Canada are asking the company that makes the vaccines, Aventis Pasteur, to reconsider the price hikes. But company spokesman Don McKibbon says Aventis had no choice. "We had not adjusted the prices appropriately for a long time," he said.

Because many of the travel vaccines aren't sold in high volumes, McKibbon says the company had to either raise prices or stop providing them in Canada altogether.