Cost Rabies VaccineAugust 1st, 2016
My staff often get asked
What’s the cost of rabies vaccine? how much does rabies vaccine cost? is it worth having rabies vaccine etc
The Cost of Rabies Vaccine varies depending on how it is given.
The cost does not have to be huge – it can be about the same price as a typhoid/hep A combination vaccine.
Travel medicine clinics can give the vaccine intradermally (ID). This means a smaller volume of vaccine is used, so it is cheaper for the traveller: e.g. about $160 for the course of vaccines instead of about $400 which is about what the cost of rabies vaccine when given into the muscle. ID also has generally less side effects.
ID vaccination works because the top layers of the skin (the dermis) have more of the special cells that help to make antibodies, so travel doctors can use a smaller dose of vaccine, and still get the result you want. Some other vaccines are licensed to give ID e.g. TB, and influenza.
Giving ID Vaccine is a specialised skill
ID vaccination is more technically difficult to administer, so it is recommended to be given in specialised travel clinics where the staff are appropriately trained. Also in order to share the vial with other travellers, the clinic needs to be seeing many travellers that day who need rabies vaccine.
You also need to have a blood test afterwards to confirm that the antibodies to rabies have developed. This is usually covered by medicare.
Giving rabies vaccine by the ID method is known as an off-label use – it is not what the vaccine product information says to do.
Rabies Vaccine is not recommended for everyone
Not all travellers are recommended to have rabies vaccine, but if it is recommended, it may be tempting to avoid the vaccine and imagine the things you could do with the money you don’t spend on rabies vaccine. BUT you might also spend a moment imagining what it would be like to be bitten by a dog in a risk country and not being able to access best practice medical care. This is not uncommon, and it is very scary. I am on call for the clinic after hours and the most common call I get is a stressed traveller who has not had rabies vaccine who is bitten unexpectedly in a high risk country. In the persons who have never had rabies vaccine, treatment must be started on the day of the bite. What if you are bitten on the trail to Machu Pichu? or while trekking in Burma? or the steppes of Outer Mongolia? etc
The cost of rabies vaccine is a deterrent to some persons, but the good news is that once one has had the primary course, known as ‘ pre immunisation’ for rabies, one does not have to repeat it when you go on your next trip, so it is a lifetime investment.
If you are pre immunised for rabies you would still need two booster if you are bitten by an animal in a rabies infected country, but you would never need to have the Rabies Immune Globulin (RIG). RIG is a blood product so it is hard to manufacture, scary because it could even be contaminated, and usually not readily available in the remote parts of the world.
It is a good idea of course to avoid patting dogs in countries that have rabies, but many persons who get a rabies risk bite are not patting dogs, they are just going about their business of being a traveller.
References for more information
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