Vaccination May Mean Big Savings

Childhood vaccination may lead to thousands of lives and billions of dollars saved

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) It's easy to forget how horrible many childhood diseases were before vaccines were introduced. And it's even easier to forget how much those diseases cost families and society.

A recent study calculated just how much money has been saved by the current CDC childhood immunization schedule.

The cost savings related to almost 50,000 lives saved among the children born in a single year.

Those savings relate to the direct costs of treating children who catch one of the diseases that vaccines protect against as well as bigger costs to society in general.

"Discuss the CDC recommended immunization schedule with your child's doctor."

This study, led by Fangjun Zhou, PhD, of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimated the money related to costs and benefits of vaccines among children born in 2009.

The CDC already completed one study that estimated cost savings from immunizations for children who had been born in 2001. This study, however, analyzed the updated childhood immunization schedule, which includes additional vaccines such as the pneumococcal vaccine.

The vaccines included in this analysis were the DTaP (tetanus/diphtheria/pertussis), Hib (Haemophilus influenzae type b), inactivated poliovirus, MMR (measles/mumps/rubella), hepatitis B, varicella (chickenpox), 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate, hepatitis A and rotavirus vaccines.

To estimate the cost savings, the researchers took into account the following information:

  • Known effectiveness of each vaccine
  • How many children received the vaccines (immunization coverage)
  • The commonness of the diseases before the vaccine was introduced
  • Rates of the diseases in the US between 2005 and 2009

Their calculations also involved both the direct costs and indirect costs related to immunization.

For example, the costs of immunizing children included the costs of the vaccines themselves, the cost of administering them in clinics, the cost of treatment for any side effects and the costs of parents' lost work time and travel to and from the doctor's office.

The cost savings related to money saved from children not catching diseases (treatment, hospitalization, work time lost, death-related costs, etc.).

The costs were based on what US dollars were worth in 2009 and were calculated for a hypothetical group of 4.3 million children born in 2009 and followed over a lifetime.

The calculations revealed that routine childhood immunization could prevent approximately 42,000 early deaths among children born in 2009.

The prevention of those diseases may lead to a savings of $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total costs to society.

When the costs of vaccinating and the costs of not vaccinating were compared, the researchers found that every dollar spent on vaccination saved $3 in direct costs and $10 in society costs.

"From both direct cost and societal perspectives, vaccinating children as recommended with these vaccines results in substantial cost savings," the researchers wrote.

Adam Powell, PhD, a health economist and President of Payer+Provider Syndicate, said it's long been known that childhood vaccinations are highly cost-effective.

He also noted that some limitations in this study may actually have led the researchers to understate the impact of vaccinations.

"Most importantly, the study did not put a valuation on the reduced suffering children experience by avoiding diseases when computing the benefits of vaccinations," Dr. Powell said.

"As most parents consider both the impact on their child's welfare and on their finances when considering vaccines, the amount that vaccines reduce suffering should be considered in a complete analysis," he said.

This research was published March 3 in the journal Pediatrics. It was funded by the CDC, and the authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
March 11, 2014
Last Updated:
March 12, 2014