Vaccine Costs and Benefits (Article)

In all aspects of our lives, it is useful once in a while to stand back and evaluate our decisions, our priorities, and our courses of action. This is true in our personal lives as well as our societal decisions. Are we making the best use of scarce resources, are we as a society helping our most vulnerable, and are our decisions cost effective? In other words, does the benefit of an action outweigh its costs?

Fortunately, the geniuses at the Center for Disease Control did such an analysis for an action that every parent must confront: vaccinating or not vaccinating their children. The CDC analyzed costs and benefits that the 78.6 million children born between 1994-2013 received from vaccines in the US. Pediatricians, family doctors, state and federal policy makers, and health departments did a great job of vaccinating children, achieving a 90% vaccination rate during these years. Here were the staggering estimates of benefits of vaccines for this cohort of children during these years:

  • 322,000,000 childhood illnesses were prevented
  • 21,000,000 hospitalizations were prevented
  • 732,000 premature childhood deaths were prevented
  • Net savings in healthcare cost to families, insurance companies, and taxpayers were estimated to be $295 billion dollars
  • Net savings to society: a whooping $1.38 trillion dollars!

I think by anyone’s standards vaccines are incredibly effective tools. Think of all the family turmoil, pain and suffering, and long-term injury to children that getting routine childhood shots was able to prevent. Take a good look at these staggering numbers and imagine all those sick children and agonized families who never even had to step into a healthcare facility. From a cost-benefit standpoint, can it get much better?

I welcome your comments at my blog, Until next time.

Smo notes:

Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR)

Benefits from Immunization During the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994–2013

 April 25, 2014 / 63(16);352-355

Written by Paul Smolen M.D.