23rd August 2013
The saga began a few weeks ago when I made an initial booking for the vaccine at a travel clinic near me. They were charging £52.00. I later found it cheaper at my own GP clinic for £50.00 and booked to have it today. I arrived in good time and was duly called in by the nurse.
‘Where are you travelling to?’ she asked.
‘Cameroon.’ I replied not even attempting to hide the excitement in my voice.
She smiled politely as she looked up my destination on her screen.
‘Are you having the other vaccines as well?’ she enquired, obviously noticing that Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis B are also recommended.
‘No.’ I answered and hoped she’d move on.
‘Have you had them done somewhere else?’ she persisted.
‘I’ll be fine,’ I evaded, ‘I don’t think I need them.’
‘What if you get these diseases?’ She was not letting it drop.
‘I have a lot of faith.’ I offered.
‘And you think faith will protect you?’ It was a cross between a sneer and incredulity.
I held my arms open. ‘It seems to be doing alright so far. Look at me. There’s nothing wrong with me,’ I declared.
‘OK then. If that’s what you want.’ She said in a voice that left me in do doubt she considered me foolish.
‘Are you aware you have to pay for the vaccine?’ she was more business-like again.
‘I was told it was fifty.’ I challenged.
Without looking up from typing she replied, ‘Well, if that’s what they told you.’
She then disappeared into another room and came back with a small phial and needle.
‘Where on my body?’ I asked.
‘On your arm.’
‘Anyone in particular.’
When the syringe was full she came toward me bearing a small bowl of cotton wool balls. She used one of them to rub a small patch on my arm, and with a pin-prick later it was all over.
‘Please pay at reception while I write up your certificate,’ she instructed me.
I was relieved she didn’t mention Malaria tablets.
‘I’ve come to pay for my yellow fever vaccine,’ I said to one of the busy receptionists.’
‘That will be £11.40’ she said.
‘What! I thought it was £50.’ My turn to be incredulous.
‘Oh, yellow fever. Yes, you’re right. It’s £50.’
The nurse returned with my certificate and asked me to sign it. I noticed it was valid for 5 years. When I queried this she said that how long they’re valid for.
‘But I thought the vaccine was valid for 10 years?’
‘I know,’ she did a little shrug as if to say ‘that’s how it is.’
‘But that’s crazy!’ I protested. ‘Does that mean that if I want to travel again in six year’s time I have to come back and pay for another one of these even though the vaccine is active for ten years?’
‘Just one minute,’ she said walking away.
She returned with a pen, changed the 5 to a 10, wrote ‘Ten Years’ in letters and handed me back the certificate.
I was flabbergasted! What kind of system is being operated here? Why are there varying prices for the same vaccine and how can 5 years be so easily changed to 10. And shouldn’t it have been ten years in the first place? What if I didn’t know to ask? And what if I hadn’t protested?
Has anyone else encountered this?