Vaccines are well regarded as one of the most cost-effective health care actions that a country can pursue, and since 2001 the United Nations has been running a program in 73 low and middle-income countries to prevent 10 diseases. It is now expected that when the project is completed in 2020, it will have resulted in averting around 20 million deaths, while at the same time saving a staggering $820 billion.
The research carried out is a detailed assessment of the Gavi program, which is a global vaccine alliance launched in 2000 that provides vaccines to children in countries where per-capita gross national income is less than $1,000. Most studies have focused on the savings this has had on health care only, however, this latest work, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, has taken into account the much wider economic and social savings from vaccination, too.
“Our examination of the broader economic and social value of vaccines illustrates the substantial gains associated with vaccination,” explained Sachiko Ozawa, who led the research, in a statement. “Unlike previous estimates that only examine the averted costs of treatment, our estimates of the broader economic and social value of vaccines reflect the intrinsic value that people place on living longer and healthier lives.”
And these economic benefits, it turns out, are huge. The researchers have calculated that when the vaccination program comes to an end in 2020, it will have saved around $350 billion when it comes to health, but overall this balloons to an astonishing $820 billion across the 73 low and middle-income countries in which Gavi is operating.
This is not only through reduced health care costs as diseases are prevented before they become an issue, but also due to those who are vaccinated being healthier and so working for longer and thus increasing productivity in these nations over their entire lifetimes.
“Vaccination is generally regarded to be one of the most cost-effective interventions in public health,” Ozawa continued. “Decision-makers need to appreciate the full potential economic benefits that are likely to result from the introduction and sustained use of any vaccine or vaccination program.”
Clearly, however, it is not just about money. The vaccine program will eventually have prevented at least 20 million child deaths, in addition to over 500 million cases of illness, 9 million cases of long-term disability, and a staggering 960 million years of disability.
The facts and figures like these, it is really very difficult to argue against the continued and sustained benefit of vaccination for all children in every corner of the planet, not only as a means of saving lives, but also as one of economic development.