Throughout the centuries, vaccines have been recognized as an extremely important and effective tool for the prevention of infectious diseases, and many milestones have been achieved. Each year, three million lives are saved, thanks to vaccination. Among the 10 greatest public health achievements from 1900-1999, vaccination and infectious disease control is one of them. However, the value of a vaccine lies not only in the fact that it prevents a specific disease, but also in the positive, long-term impact it has on individuals, families, society, and economy.
The value of vaccines to individuals
More than 100 years ago, the extraordinarily high mortality rates from infectious diseases caused a global panic. The advent of vaccines has saved many lives, both directly and indirectly, and has greatly reduced disease morbidity and mortality. Smallpox, a disease that killed 10 million people a year until the 1960s, was eradicated in 1979 through a worldwide mass immunization campaign. The number of polio cases dropped from over 300,000 per year in the 1980s to only 2,000 in 2002. Many more new vaccines are being developed, thus preventing even more infectious diseases. It can be said that the health of each of us is inseparable from the vaccine.
The value of vaccines to families
For families, the health of their children is paramount. Between 1990 and 2017, vaccinations helped halve the number of deaths in children under five years old. In relatively poorer countries, vaccines save the lives of five children every minute. While too many children still don't have access to vaccines, preventing diseases like measles and tetanus means millions of children have the opportunity to grow up, go to school and live healthy lives. The healthy growth of children is priceless for the family.
The value of vaccines to society
For society, due to the excellent input-output ratio of vaccines, significant medical resources can be saved, thus reducing the burden on government and society, and saving social funds for use in other public service programs. In addition, vaccines exert large positive externalities on others in society, including the unvaccinated. For instance, in terms of health security, vaccine take-up increases the probability of a community reaching herd immunity (i.e., point at which a proportion of the population is immune to a disease), which has direct impacts on others by reducing contagion, preventing morbidity and mortality, and diminishing the need for restrictions that hamper economic activity and social life.
The value of vaccines to economy
Some of the intangible benefits provided by vaccination are overlooked by traditional economic analysis. These include outcome-related productivity gains (improved cognition and physical strength, as well as school enrolment, attendance, and achievement), behavior-related productivity gains (effects on fertility and consumption choices), and community externalities (herd effect, indirect protection, prevention of antibiotic resistance) among others [1,2]. Studies show that economic growth depends on the degree of improvement in health status. Vaccination is considered a substantial preventive measure that improves the health of individuals and allows them to contribute to economic growth through better physical, cognitive, and educational performance [3,4].
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- Barnighausen, T.; et al. Rethinking the benefits and costs of childhood vaccination: The example of the Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine. Vaccine. 2011, 29(13): 2371-2380.
- Beutels, P. Economic evaluation of vaccination programmes in humans: A methodological exploration with application to hepatitis B, varicella-zoster, measles, pertussis, hepatitis A and pneumococcal vaccination. Antwerp: University of Antwerp. 2002.
- Deogaonkar, R.; et al. Systematic review of studies evaluating the broader economic impact of vaccination in low and middle income countries. BMC Public Health. 2012, 12: 878.
- Largeron, N.; et al. The economic value of vaccination: why prevention is wealth. J Mark Access Health Policy. 2015, 3(1): 29284.
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