JUST PLAIN TALK: Vaccines and finances

Buz Livingston
Buz Livingston

Before granddaughter number one was born, her mother asked when I last had a DPT (diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus) booster. An odd inquiry but after taking several readings, the memory returned of a stifling August day when I ripped off a fingernail while repairing a Lilliston Hi-Cap peanut harvester. Since decades had passed, if I wanted to see my new granddaughter, I needed a DPT booster. Pertussis (whooping cough) cases had spiked, and newborns were at risk.

When our children were small, we vaccinated according to our pediatrician’s guidelines. Pertussis seemed a rare and ancient disease; little did I realize the grave danger it would pose to our grandchildren and their generation. When I was born, there were over 30,000 pertussis cases annually but incidents shrank to less than two thousand annually when we had kids. Astonishingly, the Center for Disease Control documented over 48,000 cases in 2012. With state-of-the-art neonatal care, the number of deaths is remarkably low, but neonatal care is costly and gut-wrenching for parents.

Recently, an unvaccinated child in Oregon almost died from tetanus. The total bill to save the young boy’s life was over $800,000. Incredulously his parents refused a follow-up tetanus inoculation which proves you can’t fix stupid. The 21st-century technology saved his life but to paraphrase Lennon and McCartney, the money wasn’t heaven sent. If the parents had insurance, doubtful given past performance, their insurance company spread the expenses to other consumers. Local property taxes likely covered indigent care costs. An unvaccinated child is not only a risk to others’ health but poses a financial burden to society.

The World Health Organization labels vaccine hesitancy a threat to global health. The 21st-century reluctance to vaccinate springs from a thoroughly discounted, totally debunked paper in 1999 linking autism with vaccines. The author, Dr. Peter Wakefield, had his medical license stripped and the British medical journal BMJ labeled his report “an elaborate fraud.” An investigative reporter found Wakefield accepted more than $670,000 ($1.2 million, 2019 dollars) from law firms planning to sue vaccination manufacturers.

Social media’s echo chamber is the perfect medium for anti-vaccine fearmongering. An October 2018 report from the American Public Health Association found Russian Twitter bots and Facebook trolls amplified the “debate.” Russia’s goal is quite clear. Ed Ball, likely the most powerful Floridian since Ponce De Leon invaded, had a famous toast, “Confusion to the enemy.”

Of course, there is no debate; vaccines are safe and effective. When I was born, the United States documented over 650,000 measles cases annually; a decade later there were less than 100. The Center for Disease Control has confirmed over 200 measles cases in 2019 with more expected. People concerned about the side effects of the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine forget death is a side effect of measles.

You can’t always get what you want but Buz Livingston, CFP can help you figure out what you need. For specific advice, visit or drop by 2050 West County Highway 30A, M1 Suite 230.