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Vaccines’ challenging times

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When Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann called the HPV vaccine “dangerous” last month, public health advocates got worried. Historically, when politicians have raised the alarm about the safety of vaccinations, vaccination rates tend to drop.

Jacquelyn Martin AP But more recently, two less-noticed developments should also be causes for concern about the future of vaccinations. It turns out that younger doctors are becoming more skeptical that vaccines work, according to a presentation this week at the Infectious Diseases Society of America’s annual meeting. The two researchers, Johns Hopkins’ Michelle Mergler and Emory University’s Saad B. Omer, found that younger health care providers — more recent medical school graduates — are “more likely to believe immunizations do more harm than good.” Recent medical school graduates were 15 percent less likely to believe vaccines work, compared with older counterparts.

The second ominous sign came from health technology company athenahealth, which recently found that vaccines can often be money losers for doctors. The company combed through what insurers pay 1,400 doctors for administering eight common vaccines. They found that, in nearly half the cases, the reimbursement wasn’t enough to cover the direct costs (the actual vaccine) and indirect costs (like shipping and refrigeration) of providing the vaccination. For doctors, the case against vaccinations could be less about scare tactics and more about simple math: 47 percent of the vaccinations they give are, according to this study, money losers.

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