Monday, 30 January 2012

The Vaccine Machine

Let me join the legions of mommy bloggers who start their posts off with the words: “I am so pissed.” I’ve just come back from getting Ryan’s three-month immunisation shots done, and I’m not sure what’s hurting more – his chubby thighs or my wallet.

Round 1 (ding!): the 6-weeks shots
You know, back when I took Ryan for his 6-week shots, I ranted most eloquently to anyone who would listen about how bleeding expensive it was.

First I went to the paediatrician for his check-up. The good doctor was running 30 mins late and made me languish soaked to the bone in his waiting room (I’d been klapped by one our infamous Jozi thunderstorms in the parking lot). I undressed Ryan, the doc weighed him, measured him up and down and around the head, bicycled his little legs and ABRACADABRA! 10 minutes. R565 cash.

(Bet your ass I’m sending Ryan to medical school. I plan to brainwash him by playing reruns of Grey’s Anatomy and House until he’s of varsity age.)

Two days later I’m at the hospital baby clinic, where the sister in charge is bad-mouthing some other mommy who “tried to pull a fast one” by saying she’d gotten the date wrong for her son’s appointment. “Well I showed her – she’ll have to wait three weeks for a spot now.” Absorbing this oblique threat, I meekly undressed Ryan (who was so down with this programme), and she weighed and measured him again, gave him his government-grade (I asked) shots and BIBBITY BOBBITY BOO! R680 cash.

After I crossed her palms with silver, we made an appointment for his next round of shots at 3 months, which the sister informed me would be another R680.

“Screw this moneymaking merry-go-round!” I mumbled under my breath.
“See you in January!” I said with my giant Chicklet front teeth smile.

Round 2 (ding ding!): the 3-month shots
Needless to say, I phoned in and cancelled on the hospital baby clinic. There had to be other options. Government clinic? There’s one in my neighbourhood...

I did a little drive by; I parked my car in a deserted, weed-infested parking lot with graffiti on the surrounding brick walls. I’d just fetched the Lionheart from school, so I wheeled him along in his pram, into a crowded dark room where about 30 ladies sat in chairs in rows, like at Home Affairs.

Silence. I was the only whitie... and I felt EMBARRASED to be there. Not to be seen there, but because all the mothers there were so obviously from an impoverished background. They must have taken me all in – Honda Jazz (which was almost repossessed a few weeks ago), fancy Peg Perego pram (five years old and coming apart at the seams), Ginger Mary T-shirt (hand-me-downs from my mom who thinks I dress like a bag lady)...

See how hard I’m trying to rationalise why I think I’m ‘poor enough’ to deserve to get Ryan’s shots done for free? “When I was little,” I tell myself, “the nurses came to our primary school and we got all this done for free - because we pay taxes!” I almost felt like I needed to dress down for my government clinic adventure. Guilt-ridden, I backed the pram out of there pronto.

Interesting side-note: a rather cuckoo friend of mine says to never get your child’s shots done at a free clinic, because “the Illuminati put funny stuff in the government-grade vaccines to control the mass population”. Pretty nuts, eh?

So this is how I found myself at Dis-Chem this afternoon. I figured: “It’s a discount pharmacy, right? How much could it possibly cost?” As the sister was prepping Ryan’s vaccines, she said: “You know about the costs?” “Oh, I’m sure it will be okay,” I said, alarm bells clanging in my ears but me far too polite to say: “Stop the bus! How much exactly IS this going to cost me?”

It cost R1309. Almost double the R680 it would have cost at the hospital baby clinic. I had to split it between my debit and credit cards.

Let me tell you what I would rather have spent R1300 on:
  • 8.3 super-sized tins of (or five months’ supply) of Lactogen baby formula for Ryan 
  • 412 nappies for the Lionheart, or 646 nappies for the Little Prince 
  • A month’s worth of meat and veggies, to feed our family of four 
  • Given a street child a crisp R20 note every day, for 64 days 
  • Put it all on red at Silverstar Casino 

I feel a bit guilty bitching about the price of vaccines. After all, here I am moaning that something necessary for my child’s health costs too much – but earlier today I called someone out about paying their domestic worker too little (R50 bucks a day).

What do you think, readers? I’ve heard some moms are anti-vaccine. Their kids are shot-free. Am I being a Scrooge, complaining about the price of vaccines? Playing fast and loose with Ryan’s health? Taking vaccines quit literally out of the mouths of underprivileged babes if I go to a government clinic? Be honest – I can handle it.


  1. My dear woman, boy am I in a ranty-commenty-type way tonight (sorry about that, MomAgainAt40!) but what? Guilt about entering a government clinic? no, Stacey, NOOOOOO!

    Government clinics are for all of us. The government has enough vaccines for everybody. Nobody is being deprived if you use the service. I promise you you are not the only whitie there - maybe just on that day. But in any case, it doesn't mean anythign, like that you are availing yourself of services that belong to others - it's just not like that. Okay, the way I see it, you pay taxes, which our govt gleefully squander. Why should some of your tax money not come back to you in the form of Ryan's vaccine instead of buying a minister's SUV?
    I can't emphasise it often enough - there is NO governmental shortage of clinic vaccines. You are taking the vaccine out of NOBODY's mouth if you go there. GO! Those bleeding things will bankrupt you otherwise. (And it's really no big deal. I've been to govt clinics in the past - sure some of your other readers will echo my experience)

  2. Well you pretty much hit the nail on the head, vaccines certainly are a very pretty money spinnner for the manufacturers regardless of whether you're going government or private, as are all the well baby clinic & paed visits if you have a healthy and flourishing child.

  3. Stacey, are u not on Medical Aid? If you go for a vaccine at the Private Baby Clinic or Dischem for that matter, you can claim back a portion of it from your medical aid. I take Kelsea to the Intercare on Hendrik Potgieter and there's a Baby Clinic there. Prices are ok, the most expensive one I have ever paid was R700 something but then Medical Aid payed probably half.
    But in saying that you shouldnt feel bad about going to government clinics, there are lots of people out there, Black, White, Coloured, Indian, they all use them :-)

  4. This is the low down here in Port Alfred. We have a dual private/government hospital. Our local midwife, Sister Ingrid (who is the awesomest lady out there) runs a baby clinic at the hospital one day per week - Mondays. I was there for Emily's fifteen months MMR vaccine yesterday. Because the government does not supply MMR, I had to pay for the vaccine. It cost me R280 from the hospital pharmacy. Add to that Ingrid's flat-rate of R100, and yesterday's total came to R380.
    The government does not supply a vaccine for chicken pox btw - and that's a pricey little pin prick at almost R500.
    The fact remains that someone is taking the piss out there. Illuminati theories aside, government vaccines (those supplied) are free. FREE. NO CHARGE.

  5. I go to a private baby clinic with government issue shots, I pay R150 unless government doesnt have stock then its R350, your clinic is ripping you off on free meds, my R150 basically pays for me to use a clean fancy clinic.

    1. Pls share the details of your clinic. I was smacked R1600 when bub left the hospital for his TB shot.

  6. I also have a near heart-attack every time I pay the vaccinations bill. On average each visit costs over a grand at the netcare stork's nests. I was once out of "Medical Savings Acount", but in "above threshold", when I had my son vaccinated. I submitted the claim to discovery, expecting them to at least pay SOME of the over-a-grand bill. They paid nothing, and I was fuming. (Seeing as I pay them a small fortune every month). They told me that vaccinations are classed as schedule 2 (Same as OTC drugs) and thus because I had run out of MSA funds, they don't pay for Schedule 2 drugs. I told the guy in their call centre that they (as a medical scheme)were basically incentivising me to not vaccinate my child. They had no comment. Typical.

  7. I went to the 6 week paed check up and havent been back since. I take Jack to be weighed (for free) at Dischem and the sister checks his milestones when he has his injections.

    I went to clicks for all Jacks shots and each time I was charged R75 - thats it and the sister spent time chatting to me about it.

    I have heard that Clicks arent offering the gov injections anymore - Jack needs to go for his 9 month one the end of this month so will see what they say!!!
    We actually dont have a gov clinic nearby :-/ My brother uses one near them in CT and they love it. And one day a week all shots are free - so they wait for that and walk over and get it all done for free!!

  8. I also wrote a post today about vaccines. Think I will publish it later this week. I usually take my son to the pharmacy close to my home. There are a number of pharmacies that have nurses come in to assist with BC and BP testing and vaccinations. I pay R55 which includes a weigh and the shot. Seriously. If I want the fancy shots like Rotavirus and MMR (as far as I’m aware, everyone doesn’t go for these so it obviously isn’t compulsory) then I pay R450 for those ones. I usually plan for these ones so it’s not so unmanageable when we get there. R450 is STILL better than what you are paying! Sjoe.
    I used to go to a govt clinic with my Child1. It was easier then because I wasn’t working. I would still go to a govt clinic if I had time to sit and wait because I used to get a really lovely service when I went those years ago.
    Seriously. There are pharmacies who do it for a minimal fee. Not dischem though. Try Clicks

  9. I took my two-year-old for FREE vaccines (including Prevenar and Rotavirus) at our government clinic. I took -and am still taking- my three-month-old as well.

    Sure, I get some stares and I do 'dress down' on the day but whatever.

    Luckily our closest clinic is very clean and I hardly ever wait. We have to get SOMETHING for all the taxes we pay. I actually feel proud when I'm able to use some of the services SA offers its citizens for free.

  10. I (and I'm black), have never taken my child to a govt clinic for vaccinations and at 21 months old, I only recently (for her 18 month vacc)took her Dischem which I didn't find much cheaper. It actually wasn't a conscious decision. I guess you give birth at a Netcare Hopsital & are sold the Stork's Nest Baby Clinic story- like a package deal & you kind of never question it. (at least that's what happened to me)Now preggies with baby no.2 and have made a conscious decision to use govt clinics. there is one just outside Nelson Mandela Square which is clean,professional,and if you go at the right time (ie, not 1st thing in the morning), then you don't have to wait long to be attended to. i guess for me it was also a 1st time mom thing. "Shmucks with Bucks" I tell you!

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with using a govt clinic. Private Medical Care has become ridicusouly expensive! sane your MedicalSavings account for things you cannot get at a govt clinic.

    1. Well said. My first child I used govt clinic, don't see the issue there cos I was treated equal. The staff are much friendlier and helpful. Like you said - it's key to pick your times. My second child, I was sold the stork package story too - rip off. Got to 9 month vac and skipped the lot. Baby 3 - only the forced hospital TB. He is now 1. Everytime I went to my local clinic, they were out of govt stock. They explained the diff prices for the 2 private ones. Same thing only one is govt subsidised. Nothing under R700 a shot. Medical aids should cover these costs - period.

  11. I live in a lovely town and almost all the moms I know take their babies to the local church building, the premises of our weekly government clinic. Its perfect. Its free. The moms (black and white and coloured) all chat and socialize while the line gets shorter, and there is no stigma attached. It is as it should be.

  12. You pay taxes Stace, you go get your free shots minus the guilt girl!


Thanks for sharing, Lionheart readers. ROAR!