Health and Medicine

Vaccines Return Up to $44 To Society For Every $1 Spent On Them

February 9, 2016 | by Josh L Davis

Photo credit: The study looked at 94 middle-to-low income countries around the world. Valeriya Anufriyeva/Shutterstock

Whichever way you look at it, vaccinations seem like a pretty damn good investment. Not only do they save the lives of people by preventing them from getting ill, but they also contribute to the social and economic wellbeing of communities. A new study has quantified the net benefits derived from vaccinating people in middle-to-low income countries, and found that when looking just at the costs associated with illness, vaccinations will yield an impressive net return of $16 for every $1 spent on them.

But things get even better; when they looked at the broader economic and social benefits, this return from vaccinations balloons to $44  for every $1 spent. “Vaccines are an excellent investment,” explains Sachiko Ozawa, the lead author of the study published in the journal Health Affairs. “But to reap the potential economic rewards, governments and donors must continue their investments in expanding access to vaccines.”

The authors of the study break the returns down into two sections. The first looked at the “cost-of-illness” and measured the averted cost of treatment, loss of productivity, and transportation costs among others. It was under this scenario that they found a return of $16 for every $1 spent on vaccines. The second part focused on what is known as the “full-income approach,” and took into account wider economic and social benefits of vaccinations, such as living longer and healthier lives, as well as a reduction of income spent on health care, which can be put into other economic programs. It was here that they found the net return was an astonishing $44 for every $1 spent.

It is estimated that from between 2011 and 2020, the "Decade of Vaccines," the immunization programs of the 94 middle-to-low income countries studied by the researchers cost $34 billion. They estimate that the amount of money that has been saved by preventing the “cost-of-illness” associated with vaccine-preventable diseases comes in at around $586 billion over a ten year period, while if looking at the larger “full-income approach,” the nations have seen a benefit of $1.53 trillion.

The results seem pretty impressive, and this was only looking at 10 vaccine-preventable diseases, which included yellow fever, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, and measles. So clearly, vaccinations are a pretty good investment to make for developing countries. These findings should hopefully encourage more donors and governments to keep up the fight against preventable diseases, as Ozawa warns: “We must keep in mind that these are estimates that assume immunization coverage continues to expand and improve.”

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