Tag: Vaccines for Children

Do Anti-Vaccine Pediatricians Lose Millions Not Vaccinating Kids?

Paul Thomas is upset…

He thinks that Willamette Week, an alternative weekly newspaper in Portland, is trying to discredit him.

How are they using their platform “to try to discredit an ethical top Pediatrician in the community?”

An “ethical top pediatrician” who made up his own immunization schedule???

Paul Thomas was barred from the Vaccines for Children Program.
Paul Thomas was barred from the Vaccines for Children Program.

Willamette Week published a story about how Paul Thomas was kicked out of the Vaccines for Children Program.

“VFC (Vaccines for Children) does not provide any funding (no real dollars) just free vaccines for the underprivileged. What I lost was the ability to provide this free federal program to my patients who qualify for this program. This is simply a major inconvenience to those affected. Financially it is neutral to me.

My clinic had actually stocked the vaccines Rachel mentions – we just didn’t comply in a timely manner, so you got this part right “I didn’t jump through their hoops fast enough.”

Paul Thomas

To make a long story short, he got kicked out of the Vaccines for Children Program because he didn’t follow the rules of the program.

What about the idea that he “just didn’t comply in a timely manner?”

This all started over two and a half years ago???

Although Paul Thomas says in his post that his “clinic had actually stocked the vaccines Rachel mentions,” the order kicking him out of the VFC program says otherwise.

“Dr. Thomas submitted a Declaration signed under penalty of perjury stating his office does not keep stock of HPV vaccines and instead sends patients to pharmacies.”

Default Order Terminating Integrative Pediatrics from VFC

He also did not have any rotavirus vaccine in his office.

Not exercising medical judgement in accordance with accepted medical practice? Where is the Oregon Medical Board???

To get to the point of being terminated and which Paul Thomas characterizes as “I didn’t jump through their hoops fast enough,” actually involved:

  • ignoring an offer for a probationary agreement (August 2018)
  • asking for a contested case hearing (October 2018) which was scheduled for July 12, 2019
  • withdrawing his request for a contested case hearing on July 10, 2019

I’m surprised they gave him that much time!

Did he lose Medicaid funding?

I’m not sure he even takes Medicaid, but he did lose the ability to give his patients vaccines that he didn’t have to pay for.

“One huge misconception, and I see the comments on this, is that pediatricians don’t make money on vaccines or that they are not financially incentivized to vaccinate. There are profits from vaccine mark-ups and huge profits from vaccine administration fees. The average admin fee is about $35 per vaccine. For the 715 patients born into my practice who have refused to give any vaccines (each child would have had 28 vaccines by age 2 and over 60 vaccines in their childhood) amounting to income of $700,000 for the 2 years and $1.5 million over their childhood. Those are real dollars lost for Integrative Pediatrics. The money lost when considering that we serve over 15,000 patients, with most being selective about how they vaccinate would have driven most practices out of business.

There are also built in incentives in many contracts with health plans. Vaccines are a quality measure (if your practice does not reach a bench mark in numbers vaccinated) you loose a % on all services provided to patients under that insurance contract.

Is it any wonder most of my peers discharge patients from their practices who won’t follow the CDC schedule? Often these patients are told to call Dr. Thomas (Integrative Pediatrics).

Let us be clear. It is not a good business decision to allow families not to vaccinate or to permit selective vaccination.”

Paul Thomas

Let us be clear. He certainly doesn’t understand vaccine administration fees…

Some things he gets wrong?

  • pediatricians might charge $35 as an admin fee, but they are lucky if insurance companies pay them 1/3 or 1/2 that or even less. Your average vaccine administration fee is only going to be $35 if you don’t take insurance and can set your own fees!
  • you get a lower vaccine administration fee for the second vaccine component given (you use a different CPT code – 90461) vs the first (90460), and it pays less, so doctors make less when they give multiple vaccines at the same visit. Is that why many vaccine friendly doctors recommend giving one vaccine at a time?

And he misses the whole point behind vaccine administration fees.

It costs pediatricians money to order, stock, monitor, and give vaccines!

“This study shows that the variable costs of vaccine administration exceeded reimbursement from some insurers and healthplans.”

Glazner et al on Cost of Vaccine Administration Among Pediatric Practices

Do they make any money?

Hopefully they do, as health care is a business in the United States, but they certainly aren’t making millions in net profit as Paul Thomas suggests. And if they aren’t very careful, after considering all of the factors that go into giving a vaccine, it is very easy to lose money.

How Do Anti-Vaccine Pediatricians Make Money?

Which brings us back to the business decision of being a pediatrician who scares parents away from vaccinating and protecting their kids.

Is there any money in that?

Paul Thomas doesn't mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a "free" summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.
Paul Thomas doesn’t mention that he gets a big cut of the sales for a “free” summit that costs $197 as he promotes his anti-vaccine lecture.

Books, seminars, supplements, essential oils – there are lots of things to sell parents who don’t vaccinate their kids.

Compared to these pediatricians in California, Paul Thomas is a bargain at just $295/year.

Don’t forget the annual membership fees that many of these pediatricians charge for the privilege of skipping or delaying vaccines and at extra risk to get a vaccine-preventable disease.

And the vaccine exemptions that some of them sell…

More on Do Anti-Vaccine Pediatricians Lose Millions Not Vaccinating Kids?

Strategies for Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

How do we improve vaccination rates?

A very clever immunization reminder system for parents.
A very clever immunization reminder system for parents.

One way is to help parents get educated about vaccines, so that they understand that vaccines work, vaccines are safe, and that vaccines are necessary.

Strategies for Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

Vaccine-hesitant parents who might delay or skip some of their child’s vaccines aren’t the only reason vaccination rates aren’t where they should be though.

“Immunization levels in the United States are high, but gaps still exist, and providers can do much to maintain or increase immunization rates among patients in their practice.”

CDC on The Need for Strategies to Increase Immunization Levels

How do we fix these gaps in immunization rates?

Some easy things to do that can help increase vaccination rates might include:

  • regularly posting vaccine education material on your social media accounts
  • maintaining a good supply of vaccines
  • reminding parents to bring their immunization records with them to each appointment, especially if they are new patients
  • keeping accurate immunization records on each patient
  • carefully recording vaccines that have been given outside your office
  • using an immunization information system or immunization registry to make it easier to keep track of immunization records
  • generating lists of patients who’s vaccines are past due
  • using reminder and recall messages, either phone calls, text messages, or postcards, etc., so that parents are notified when vaccines are due soon or past due
  • using an electronic health record system to automatically generate prompts when vaccines are due at well visits and sick visits
  • manually reviewing your patient’s vaccination status at each visit, whether it is a sick visit, well visit, or just a nurse visit, to see if they need any immunizations. Remember, a mild illness is not usually a contraindication to getting vaccinated.
  • reducing missed opportunities to vaccinate kids by using standing orders and “nurse only” or “shots only” visits for vaccinations
  • having extended hours for some scheduled or walk-in vaccination clinics
  • enrolling in the Vaccines for Children program to provide free vaccine to families who are uninsured

And most importantly, office staff need to get educated about vaccines too, especially about the anti-vaccine talking points that might keep some kids from getting vaccinated on time. They should also understand the immunization schedule and catch-up immunization schedule, so they can easily recognize which vaccines are due.

“Pediatricians in the sample often provided parents with inconsistent, mixed messages and sometimes offered information about HPV or HPV vaccination that was inaccurate. Pediatricians used presumptive language in only 11 of 75 encounters; when used, presumptive language was associated with higher odds of accepting HPV vaccine.”

Sturm et al, on Pediatrician-Parent Conversations About Human Papillomavirus Vaccination: An Analysis of Audio Recordings

Pediatricians who are getting frustrated talking to parents who have been refusing vaccines might also learn a few new things, including how to use presumptive language.

What is presumptive language?

In the HPV vaccination study quoted above, it was defined as “a matter-of-fact statement that the child was due for or would receive HPV vaccine that day or at a future date, conveying a positive stance toward vaccination.” This is in contrast to a nonpresumptive style that “involved questions or uncertainty,” such as “do you want to get a shot today?”

“High-quality recommendations were strongly associated with HPV vaccination behavior, but only about one-third of parents received them.”

Gilkey et al, on Provider communication and HPV vaccination: The impact of recommendation quality

In addition to using presumptive language, another study has found that “By endorsing HPV vaccine highly, recommending same-day vaccination, and emphasizing cancer prevention, providers may be able to promote HPV vaccine initiation and completion while discouraging vaccine refusal and delay.”

Can these strategies work for your office?

What to Know About Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

From using reminder systems and standing orders to changing how you talk to parents, there are a lot of things that can be done to increase childhood vaccination rates.

More on Increasing Childhood Vaccination Rates

Medicaid Vaccines

Do rich people get better vaccines than poorer people?

Children with Medicaid typically get immunizations from the Vaccines for Children program.
Children with Medicaid typically get immunizations from the Vaccines for Children program.

Of course not, but that doesn’t keep people from spreading the anti-vaccine myth that the quality of the vaccine your child gets depends on how much money you make, with folks on Medicaid getting more dangerous vaccines.

What are Medicaid Vaccines?

Technically, there aren’t even any “Medicaid vaccines.”

The Vaccines For Children program does provide “vaccines at no cost to children who might not otherwise be vaccinated because of inability to pay.”

Children who are uninsured, underinsured, or on Medicaid are usually eligible for immunizations through the Vaccines For Children program.

These vaccines are no different than the vaccines that you would get if you were paying with cash or other types of insurance though.

They are free (except for an administration fee that your doctor or clinic might charge) because the “CDC buys vaccines at a discount and distributes them to grantees—i.e., state health departments and certain local and territorial public health agencies—which in turn distribute them at no charge to those private physicians’ offices and public health clinics registered as VFC providers.”

They are the exact same vaccines everyone else gets though.

More on Medicaid Vaccines