|June 09, 2011
12:01 AM PST
Boosting Childhood Vaccine Coverage In 72 Countries Could Save 6.4 Million Lives, Up to $231 Billion Over 10 Years
New Health Affairs Studies Estimate Economic Benefits of the "Decade Of Vaccines"
Bethesda, MD -- Two new studies published today in the June issue of Health Affairs project huge benefits from a major ramp-up of vaccine development and delivery over the next 10 years in 72 countries. The studies find that the deaths of 6.4 million children could be prevented, while at the same time saving more than $151 billion in treatment costs and producing economic benefits of $231 billion.
However, as a third study, conducted by the GAVI Alliance (formerly the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunisation), with the Results for Developmental Institute points out, poor countries will be hard-pressed to pay for expanded vaccine delivery without substantial outside support. Strong and creative vaccine financing strategies involving international donors and low and middle income countries will therefore be needed to realize these huge potential gains from immunization.
Vaccine-preventable disease kills an estimated 2.4 million children a year, according to the World Health Organization. In 2010, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced a $10 billion commitment over the current decade -- which the foundation dubbed the "Decade of Vaccines" -- to advance childhood vaccines in the developing world. The foundation also challenged other funders to join in supporting its initiative.
The Health Affairs studies published today examined the impact of extending vaccination so that 90 percent of children in 72 countries would be immunized. They would be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia; Haemophilus influenzae type b, or Hib disease, a bacterial brain infection; diphtheria; pertussis, or whooping cough; tetanus; measles; rotavirus and malaria.
Productivity Gains Boost Return on Vaccines by Estimated $151 Billion
The studies published in Health Affairs this month project that a bolstered vaccine development and delivery effort would save the lives of 6.4 million children. In addition, $6.2 billion in treatment costs would be saved as a consequence of avoiding 426 million cases of illness. By averting lost productivity of the work force due to avoidance of premature death, $145 billion in long-term economic gains would be achieved, according to Meghan L. Stack and colleagues. "These findings show the importance of measuring the economic benefits of immunization beyond treatment savings," said Stack. "Policymakers at both the national and international levels can use these results to get a more complete picture of returns on investment."
Value of Lives Saved by Vaccines Pegged at $231 Billion
The second study, by Sachiko Ozawa and co-authors, finds that the 6.4 million lives saved through scaled-up vaccine development and delivery translates into an economic value of $231 billion. In this type of analysis, known as "value of statistical lives saved," researchers arrive at an economic value of life by asking people how much they would be willing to pay in order to avoid a particular risk of death. The study is the first to assign a value-of-statistical-life estimate for vaccine use in poor countries.
In essence, the finding was "based on the ability and willingness of the world's poor to pay money to help their children stay alive," the researchers explain. They conclude that "a "global investment in the Decade of Vaccines gives the world's poor a health benefit for which they would have paid $231 billion."
The biggest impact came from deaths averted because of vaccines against pneumonia and Hib disease, followed by vaccines against rotavirus and malaria.
"Governments of developing countries constantly face the challenge of determining how much they should spend to prevent premature deaths and suffering in their populations," notes Ozawa. "This research should inform these kinds of policy decisions."
Low Income Countries Need Donor Support to Reach All Children with Life-Saving Vaccines
The third Health Affairs study, conducted for the GAVI Alliance, a public-private partnership created to help the poorest countries introduce new vaccines, adds a cautionary but hopeful note.
"Without major assistance from international donors, the poorest countries will be hard-pressed to pay the costs to reach all of their children with life-saving vaccines," said the study's author, Helen Saxenian of the Results for Development Institute, Washington, D.C.
"Fortunately, there are now efficient mechanisms for getting donor money to where it's needed, and donors are getting the message that immunization is extremely good value for money," she added.
Doing the analysis with colleagues, Saxenian's study sought to determine how much countries can contribute to the costs of new vaccines, without displacing spending on other essential programs.
Since 2008, GAVI has required that countries cover a modest share of the cost of vaccines introduced with GAVI support. The organization has recently revised these requirements, based in part on the analysis reported in Health Affairs.
The researchers found that the low-income countries could pay a modest share of these vaccine costs ($0.20 per dose). Intermediate-income countries could begin by contributing $0.20 a dose and increase that amount each year. Countries soon to graduate from GAVI support could ramp up their share of the cost of vaccines more steeply, so that they transition to financial self sufficiency by the time GAVI assistance is phased out. The GAVI Board has already set this approach as policy and it will go into effect in 2012.
|About Health Affairs|
Health Affairs, published by Project HOPE, is the leading journal of health policy. The peer-reviewed journal appears each month in print, with additional Web First papers published weekly at www.healthaffairs.org. You can also find the journal on Facebook and Twitter and download Narrative Matters on iTunes. Address inquiries to Sue Ducat at (301) 841-9962 or firstname.lastname@example.org