Expanded Vaccine Use May Reap Economic Benefits

February 10th 2016

Expanding the use of vaccines could provide significant economic benefits that far outweigh the costs of immunization.

Expanding the use of vaccines could provide significant economic benefits that far outweigh the costs of immunization.

A research team from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health recently estimated the potential investment returns of vaccinating patients in 94 low- and middle-income nations against 10 infections:Haemophilus influenzaetype b, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, Japanese encephalitis, measles,Neisseria meningitisserogroup A, rotavirus, rubella,Streptococcus pneumoniae, and yellow fever.

Using projected vaccination rates from 2011 to 2020, the researchers measured the costs of vaccine-preventable illnesses such as averted treatment costs and productivity losses (the cost-of-illness approach), while separately assessing the potential economic and social benefits of immunization (the full-income approach).

They ultimately determined that immunizations programs across the 94 countries—which would cost a total of $34 billion—could prevent approximately $586 billion in illness costs while yielding about $1.53 trillion in economic and social benefits.

Altogether, this meant that every dollar spent on vaccinations would save an estimated $16 based on the cost-of-illness approach, or up to $44 based on the full-income approach.

“Vaccines are an excellent investment,” said lead author Sachiko Ozawa, PhD, MHS, in a press release about the study, which was published in the February 2016 issue ofHealth Affairs. “But to reap the potential economic rewards, governments and donors must continue their investments in expanding access to vaccines.”

While the researcher’s efforts were focused on the economic benefits of vaccination in developing countries, retail clinicians have an important role to play in improving immunization rates, especially among those most vulnerable to certain diseases.

Young children represent one such population, as their parents may be unaware of the danger of vaccine-preventable diseases. According to a separate study published in theAmerican Journal of Preventive Medicine, only 75% of first-time expectant mothers planned to adhere to the recommended immunization schedule for their children.

That study’s lead author, Glen Nowak, PhD, encouraged clinicians and other health care providers to educate undecided parents on the benefits of vaccination and the risks of not following a recommended immunization schedule.

“Since vaccine safety is often a primary concern, information that helps first-time parents better understand how vaccines work to protect children, the reasons vaccines are given to infants, and what to expect during and after vaccination visits would be helpful,” Dr. Nowakpreviously toldContemporary Clinic.

Older patients are also at high risk of developing vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza; however, recent findings suggest that these illnesses can be prevented by encouraging vaccination among not only the elderly population, but also younger adults.

In athird studypublished inClinical Infectious Diseases, researchers found that older patients had a 9% lower risk of developing a flu-related illness in in counties where at least 15% of the younger population was vaccinated, while those living in countries with a 31% immunization rate among younger patients had a 21% lower risk.

“Our findings suggest that flu vaccination should be encouraged among low-risk adults not just for their own benefit, but also for the benefit of higher-risk adults in their community, such as the elderly,” said study author Glen B. Taksler, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic in a press release.

Dr. Taksler’s team estimated that about 1 in 20 cases of flu-related illness in the elderly could have been prevented if a greater number of younger adults had been vaccinated.

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