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The value of childhood vaccines — saving lives and money

Those of us who support vaccines have long known that the value of childhood vaccines is incredible. It saves lives. It prevents hospitalizations. And it saves money.

Now there is a peer-reviewed paper that examined the value of the childhood vaccines program for children in the 2017 US birth cohort. And it confirms what we all knew, vaccines prevent dangerous illnesses, vaccines save lives, and vaccines are beneficial to our society.

I want to briefly review the paper and then reiterate the value of childhood vaccines not only for the lives of the children but for society at large.

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The childhood vaccines paper

In a paper published on 13 July 2022 in Pediatrics, corresponding author Mawuli K. Nyaku, DrPh, MBA, MPH, and colleagues “evaluated the economic impact of routine childhood immunization in the United States (US), reflecting updated vaccine recommendations and recent data on epidemiology and coverage rates.” The researchers developed an economic model which followed the 2017 US birth cohort from birth through 2019 (or death). The impact of vaccines was modeled via a decision tree for each of the vaccines recommended for children by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) as of 2017.

The results of their analysis were:

  • Over the cohort’s lifetime, routine childhood vaccines prevented over 17 million cases of diseases.
  • It prevented over 31,000 deaths;
  • Over 853,000 life-years (LYs) and 892,000 quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs) were gained.
  • The estimated costs for childhood vaccines were $8.5 billion. These were fully offset by the $63.6 billion disease-related averted costs.
  • Routine childhood immunization was associated with US$55.1 billion and US$13.7 billion in averted costs from a societal and healthcare payer perspective, respectively.

This research in preventing deaths is in line with published studies that have shown that the Vaccines for Children Program has saved over 700,000 lives of children since its inception.

And if you add the cost savings to the healthcare system and to society at large, it’s clear that the value of the vaccination program is almost immeasurable. Anti-vaccine activists love to point out that Big Pharma makes all kinds of money from vaccines (they really don’t), but then they fail to realize the value to their children and to society of those same vaccines. Vaccines could be 8X more expensive, but those costs would still be offset by the value to society.

Another article, also published on 13 July 2022 in Pediatrics, analyzed various historical records and contemporary public health data systems and found greater than a 90% reduction in the incidence of ten illnesses after the introduction of vaccines:

  • diphtheria
  • Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib)
  • measles
  • mumps
  • pertussis
  • polio
  • rotavirus
  • rubella
  • tetanus
  • varicella

An estimated 24 million cases of vaccine-preventable diseases were averted based on 2019 US population estimates, with the greatest reductions seen in influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, pertussis, varicella, and acute otitis media caused by Streptococcus pneumonia.

In a companion editorial, also published on 13 July 2022 in Pediatrics, the authors sounded a warning:

However, the impact of misinformation on vaccine hesitancy, pervasive inequities among marginalized communities, and the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic on routine preventive care for children, underscore the need for pediatricians to be actively involved in assuring a strong system for vaccine delivery and uptake. Pediatricians in partnership with the health care system and public health must actively support robust data and delivery systems that assure the equitable provision and uptake of vaccines across populations. A concerted effort across all parts of the health care and public health systems can assure that vaccines remain one of the greatest public health achievements of our time.

These three articles certainly provide solid evidence that childhood vaccinations are definitely the greatest public health achievement of our time.


Michael Simpson

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