Posted by: daradoodle | June 2, 2010

I Got A Fever… And the Only Prescription Is… Immunization!

International Certificate of Immunization

In preparation for traveling to Uganda, I need to get a few immunizations. This is standard procedure when traveling to developing countries to protect oneself.

I asked a friend who traveled to Uganda a few years back which shots he got and he did the whole kitten caboodle including Hepatitis, Menactra, Polio, Yellow Fever and Typhoid. Upon entry to the country, he doesn’t remember having to show proof of immunization. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website provides a list of recommended vaccines based on each area of the world traveling. The most stressed vaccine for Uganda is Yellow Fever.

Once the vaccine is administered, proof of immunization is given in form of a little yellow booklet approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) that lists all of your vaccines, dates administered and doctor’s signatures. My plan was to take all precautions to ensure not contracting a life threatening disease.

Now… where to start? Where to go? Who to call?

Luckily, I have health insurance, so naturally, I would think that calling a primary health care physician is a good starting point. Wrong. Since immunizations like Yellow Fever aren’t commonly requested by the average person going to a family practitioner, the receptionist automatically tells you to call your local health department. The problem is, the local health departments are run by the city/state and they don’t take insurance.

I phoned the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services and learned that the consultation fee is $30 and Yellow Fever vaccine is $95. The lady on the other line assured me that since they don’t have overhead costs to run the clinic, using their services is more likely going to be less expensive than going to a regular doctor’s office.

However, through my insurance company, Great-West Health, I have a $20 co-pay and preventative heath care covering 100% of cost for immunizations of Rubella, Hepatitis A & B and Tetanus-diphtheria (TD). The insurance company said that I could go to a health department clinic and mail the receipt to Great-West, but there’s no guarantee that I’m going to be reimbursed and the money paid to the clinic. However, those funds could possibly be put toward my deductible. When people start throwing around words like possibly, maybe, most likely, probably, I usually equate that with either, no, or a major pain in the ass.

So began my quest to find a doctor covered by my health insurance to administer these immunizations. The insurance company sent me a list of primary care physicians as well as infections diseases doctors. When I called the primary care physicians, I was repeatedly told to call the health department and most of the infections disease doctors did the same. If I started off the conversation with… I need to be vaccinated for TD and Hepatitis… I’d receive an immediate sense of assistance. But as soon as I uttered the words, Yellow Fever, I got shut down. Call the health department!

After much Googling, I found a list of “Yellow Fever Vaccination Clinics.” Still many of these clinics do not accept insurance, but a few doctor’s names were listed and some happened to be in my health insurance’s network.

On that list I found Dr. Karine Gaboian over in Glendale, CA who’s in my insurance’s network of providers. And for the first time, after mentioning Yellow Fever, I wasn’t shut down. Then the receptionist told me she’d have to place an order for the vaccine and I needed to call back after 2 PM to schedule an appointment. When I called back, she told me she placed a note on the “office manager’s” desk to check the inventory of Yellow Fever vaccine… not quite sure why I needed to know this… but fine. Then proceeded to ask me which other vaccines I needed.

Sidenote: When you tell the doctor where you’re traveling, they’ll know which immunizations to you need.

When I began to spout off names of vaccines she said, you know, Yellow Fever isn’t covered by insurance. Awesome! Because that’s why I’m calling you.

I made one final call to another doctor on the list whose receptionist was the most helpful person I’d talked to all day. Right out the gate she said, Yellow Fever is not covered by insurance, getting it at this office will be expensive, you’re better off going to a clinic. Fair enough.

An hour later, I’m at the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services where there was no wait and the cashier took both Master and Visa cards.

I ended up getting a total of six vaccines:

Hepatitis A……$35 (will need to get one follow-up shot in six months)
Hepatitis B……$40 (will need to get two follow-up shots, #2 in a month, #3 in six months)
Polio & Diph-Tetanus, TD, Tdap……$15
Yellow Fever….$95 (yowza!)

Add a nursing assessment fee of $31 and the grand total comes to a whopping…. $276!

Let’s just say I’m going to be realllll bummed out if I get ill while in Africa.

But to take my safety to the next level, I walked out with a prescription for anti-Malaria pill, Malarone (the most expensive of the anti-Malaria, but you’re guaranteed to NOT hallucinate). 30 pills for $40 with insurance – without about $152.

And a prescription for Ciprofloxacin, only needed when diarrhea strikes. 12 pills for $10 with or without insurance.

I sent a copy of the travel immunization receipt off to my health insurance company today in attempt of reimbursement for the Hep. A & B and TD vaccine. I’ll update this post with the end result when all is said and done.

In regards to how I’m currently feeling at the moment (one day later), my arms are quite sore from the injections. I have difficulty lifting my arms over my head and I was feeling a bit run down today. It’s normal to feel feverish and achy after getting the Yellow Fever vaccine, but hopefully this won’t continue much longer. However, I should expect to feel like this for the next few days.

If you’re looking for information about travel vaccinations, here’s a helpful website that answered some of my questions, Healthy Traveler.

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  1. I so glad that I ran into your blog! I’ve been researching Yellow Fever and where to get the vaccination. You have made it much easier on me.
    I’m going to Kenya for the month of September!

    Thank you for your helpful blog.
    I’m going to Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services today or tomorrow.

    • Glad I was able to help. Trying make cost efficient plans for immunizations is quite difficult in the U.S. I don’t understand the gray area. Have a great journey.

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