Rabies Vaccine Cost Information


For Humans:

Typical rabies vaccine cost with insurance and without insurance

This is the cost for treatment after being in contact with rabies.  The rabies vaccine cost is very high and will fluctuate depending on your location.  Your treatment is going to involve getting a series of shots, which means multiple trips to the clinic.   If you have been bitten by a rabid animal, you will first get a dose of HRIG, human rabies immunoglobulin.  This single shot alone is very expensive and will make up the largest portion of the total cost.  The human rabies immunoglobulin could cost as high as a few thousand dollars in itself.  After this initial dose, you will be getting four additional doses within a 28 day span:  day three, day seven, day fourteen, and day twenty-one.  Your fees are going to include a consultation visit for the disease if bitten, cost of the actual vaccinations, and cost to administer the shots.

  For the most part, it’s impossible to give an exact cost of the series because each hospital is going to charge differently and if insurance is involved, they will limit their cost differently as well for those bitten.  For instance, one insurance company may pay up to $2,500 while another may stop at $2,000.  The cost of the shots are also based on the body weight of the patient, so the larger the patient, the higher the cost. Usually, the rabies vaccine cost for the HRIG and the shot series is between $2,000 and $7,000 per person.  If you swing through ER, you will also be paying more for the emergency cost which can put your cost around $6,000 for a single HRIG shot.

Can I get vaccinated before rabies exposure?

You are able to get a pre-exposure rabies vaccine.  Getting this will reduce your treatment in the event you are infected by rabies, especially by reducing the need to get the HRIG shot which is very expensive.  The pre-exposure rabies vaccine is not recommended for everyone.  Usually it is given to those who are going to be at a higher risk of being infected such as those who work with animals such as veterinarians, animal control, etc.  Travelers going to countries where the rabies virus is prevalent, especially in dogs, and who will not have access to immediate and quality health care.  A couple areas of concern are Latin America, Africa, and Asia.  Your physician will be able to advise you on this.  Once vaccinated, the rabies vaccine will start giving you protection in about a week and will last for two years.  Your pre-exposure rabies vaccine cost will include the administering of three doses of the vaccine on day zero, seven, and twenty-one. 

NOTE:In the event you are bitten or contact the rabies virus even after you have been vaccinated, you still need to see a doctor immediately.

How much does the pre-exposure rabies vaccine cost?

As with all medical treatment, the cost will vary from location to location.  For those without insurance, you will have to pay for the following: a consultation fee, cost for actually administering the vaccines, and the cost for the vaccine itself.  The consultation will run you from $35 to $150, with the additional appointments for giving you the shots costing $25 to $85.  The vaccine cost could range between $200 to $325 each bringing your total for just the vaccine material to $685-$1,110.  Though this may seem expensive, it is significantly lower than the cost for treatment after someone is infected if they don’t already have this vaccine, where they could pay up to $7,000 for the first shot of five.   For those who do have insurance, you will need to first check with the insurance company to make sure you are covered.  Some insurance companies only cover the rabies vaccine cost if it is for specific reasons.  Some don’t even cover it at all.  Usually if your insurance does cover it, you will only have a co-pay of $10-$40 per visit.

Who should get the pre-exposure rabies vaccine?

The pre-exposure rabies vaccine is recommended for anyone who is going to be at a higher risk for coming into contact with the rabies virus.  Veterinarians, animal control, those working in rabies labs, etc. are some examples.  Anyone traveling to areas where the rabies vaccine is high, especially in dogs, and the healthcare system is not quickly accessible or quality, should also consider getting the vaccine.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published these guidelines to help determine who should get the vaccine.

How effective is the rabies vaccine?

The treatment for rabies, which is receiving the vaccine before symptoms set in, is highly successful.  If administered with little or no delay, post-exposure prophylaxis (treatment after exposure) is 100% effective against the rabies virus.  However, once rabies has progressed in its host to where it shows symptoms, the virus is almost 100% fatal.  The period of time between infection and when the virus reaches the central nervous system varies so there is no definitive time that can be given for when the vaccine has to be given by.  The sooner the better.

Are there possible side effects to the rabies vaccine?

As with any vaccine or injection into the body, there are side effects.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has an informative fact sheet on the rabies vaccine.  Possible side effects of the vaccine include nausea, abdominal pain, hives, fever, joint pain, headache, and redness/swelling at the injection site.

How is the rabies vaccine is administered?

After someone has been infected by the rabies virus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the patient get a dose of human rabies immunoglobulin (HRIG) as soon as possible.  The amount will be based on the person’s body weight and is very expensive.  After the initial shot, the patient will receive four doses of rabies vaccine over a 21 day period after that.  Those who have already had the pre-exposure rabies vaccine will not need the HRIG and will only need two post exposure vaccinations on days zero and two.

What to expect when getting the rabies vaccine?

In the event you are getting the vaccine for the first time after being infected with rabies your first visit will consist of a shot of human rabies immunoglobulin and a dose of rabies vaccine.  Thankfully, they do not give this vaccine in the stomach any more.  The shots are administered into the arm with the exception of the human rabies immunoglobulin which will be injected at the site of the bite/infection.  After the initial visit, you will have to return to the doctor four more times for additional doses of the rabies vaccine.  These times will occur three days, seven days, fourteen days, and twenty-one days after the initial visit.  Usually after getting the shots, you will experience some burning and soreness.   If you have received the pre-exposure rabies vaccine, you will only get two doses of the rabies vaccine and no human rabies immunoglobulin which will drastically reduce your rabies vaccine cost.  The first dose of rabies vaccine will be administered on your first visit.  Two or three days later, you will return to the clinic and receive your second dose of rabies vaccine.  Again, these vaccines are not administered in the stomach anymore and will most likely be injected in the arm.

How can I get rabies?

Any warm-blooded animal, which includes humans, can contract rabies.  The virus is found in the nervous tissue where it will work its way to the brain.  As it does this, the virus is secreted in the animal’s saliva.  When that infected saliva is introduced into the body, which is usually from a bite, that body becomes infected.  A bite is the most common but any open wound or mucous membrane such as the nose, eyes, and mouth, will also allow the infection into the body.  Animals with the greatest risk of infecting humans are bats, monkeys, raccoons, foxes, skunks, cattle, wolves, coyotes, dogs, mongoose, possum, and cats.  Domestic farm animals, groundhogs, and weasels also present a risk.

Signs of rabies in people:

As stated earlier, rabies is nearly 100% preventable even after being bitten, but once the virus is allowed to take root in the person and they start showing signs of infection, it is almost 100% fatal.  If you have been infected, or believe you have been infected, seek treatment, even with the rabies vaccine cost.   After being infected, the incubation period in a human depends on the distance of the infection site from the central nervous system.  The further the distance, the longer the incubation period.  The incubation period is usually between two and twelve weeks, but there are cases where it was as little as four days and as long as six years.  This highlights the importance of seeking treatment immediately as well as trying as hard as possible to capture the animal which caused the infection for testing.  Once the virus reaches the central nervous system, symptoms will begin to show, at which point the infection is effectively untreatable and will result in death within a couple days to a couple weeks.  Early on, the symptoms will be similar to the flue with headache and fever which will turn into acute pain, violent convulsions, uncontrolled depression, and excitement.  The person may experience being partially paralyzed, bouts of anxiety, insomnia, agitation, confusion, hallucinations/delirium, and could cause them to be unable to swallow.  The person will then progress into a coma and typically dies from respiratory insufficiency.

What to do if you’ve been bitten by a rabid animal:

If you have been bitten by what you believe to be a rabid animal, thoroughly wash the wound with soap and water as soon as possible for at least five minutes.  Apply some iodine or alcohol to the wound.  Try not to touch any of your mucus membranes prior to washing your hands.  After washing the wound and your hands, flush out your mucus membranes (nose, eyes, and mouth) with water as the virus can get into your body through these areas as well.  Try to get as much information on the animal that infected you as possible such as description, location, any abnormalities or behaviors.  To determine if the animal actually had rabies, and thereby if you actually have been infected with rabies, the animal needs to be submitted for testing.  If the animal was a domestic animal, note its location and owner to assess its infection status.  If the animal was wild and you are unable to submit it for testing, continue under the assumption the animal had rabies.  Contact your physician at your earliest convenience then alert your local public health office or state health department as well as local law enforcement about the animal.  The rabies virus isn’t instant death so do not panic if you have been bitten.  Basically you do not want to get the rabies vaccine/treatment if you don’t need to.  The rabies vaccine cost and discomfort with the injections are two main reasons to not rush it if it’s not needed.  But in order to know for sure if you have been infected with rabies or not, you need to know if the animal that bit you has rabies.  If you are not able to get the animal and find out its infection status, then you have to proceed as if it did have rabies and infected you.  In the case that you are able to access the animal that bit you for testing, you may postpone treatment till you know that animal’s infection status.  Scroll lower to read on what to do with the animal that you believe is infected with rabies.

How quickly do I need to get the vaccine after I’ve been bitten?

The incubation for the rabies virus varies but immunization and treatment is recommended for at least up to 14 days after exposure.  The sooner you seek treatment the better.  If you get treatment before the virus is able to reach your central nervous system and start showing systems, recovery is almost certain.  However, once the virus starts to show symptoms, there is no known effective treatment and it is almost 100% fatal.  If the animal that bit you is domestic and animal control is able to capture it, you can postpone treatment till further determination of the animal’s infection status is reached.  If the animal was wild and unable to be submitted for testing, it is recommended you proceed as if the animal was infected.

How do I know if I’ve been infected with rabies?

In order to verify if you have been infected with rabies from an animal or not, you will need the animal.  The animal’s brain has to be sent away for testing, with the exception of domestic dogs, cats, and ferrets which can be analyzed a different way.  At this time, there is no other way to test for rabies except through testing of the brain.  There are blood tests out there but they are not reliable.  So if it is possible to locate the suspected animal, contact the Department of Health and let them know.  For wild animals, contact Animal Control or local law enforcement and explain to them the possible rabies infection.  They will put the animal down humanely and submit for rabies testing.  If the animal is already dead, a professional will need to determine if the brain is still capable of being tested.  In warm weather, the brain tissue deteriorates quickly which may leave it unusable for testing.  The results of testing the animal’s brain will confirm the animal either had rabies or did not.  Subsequently, the results will tell you if you have been infected from that animal or not.  If the animal did have rabies, you should proceed as if you have been infected by rabies.  If the test showed the animal did not have rabies, then you are safe and just saved yourself the expensive rabies vaccine cost.   Domestic animals can be handled differently.  For these animals, they should be quarantined for 10 days and observed for any signs of rabies infection.  Again, this is only for domestic animals and does not apply to wild animals or hybrids (wolf-dogs).  If there are no signs of rabies after ten days of quarantine, the animal is not infected.  If within the ten days you start to see any signs of rabies, the animal should be humanely put down and submitted for testing.  If this process is done quickly, it may save the person who was bit the high rabies vaccine cost.

Who to call for more information on rabies:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -  http://www.cdc.gov/rabies/ The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) -http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/recs/acip/  

Department of Health  

Animal Control    

Rabies Vaccine Cost for Animals:

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