The study, published Monday in the magazine, Health Affairs, examined the economic impact of of vaccines for ten different diseases in 41 developing countries. Sudden health care costs, researchers wrote, push approximately 150 million people into poverty annually.
This makes medical impoverishment one of the top factors forcing families below the World Bank’s poverty line of less than 1.9 U.S. dollars each day.
Researchers found that the poorest 20 percent of the population represented more than a quarter of deaths prevented by vaccination. And introducing vaccines in those regions, they wrote, will have the greatest impact on saving lives and preventing forced poverty caused by health care costs. In fact, they estimated that vaccines administered between 2016 and 2030 would prevent 36 million deaths.
Cases of poverty caused by diseases like hepatitis B, measles and meningitis A would see the greatest impact, scientists said. And the measles vaccine itself is estimated to prevent the highest number of deaths — 22 million of the 36 million total.
“Vaccines don’t just save lives, they also have a huge economic impact on families, communities and economies,” Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of Gavi, said in a news release. “A healthy child is more likely to go to school and become a more productive member of society in later life, while their families can avoid the often crippling healthcare costs that diseases can bring.”
In 2016, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that for every dollar spent on immunization, $16 is saved in health care costs, lost wages and lost productivity due to illness. That return on investment jumps to $44 per one dollar spent when you factor in the benefits of people living longer, healthier lives.
According to UNICEF, 1.5 million children die every year because they were not vaccinated and approximately 400 children still die every day from measles. But with routine immunization through UNICEF and international and governmental support, the number of deaths from measles has decreased by 71 percent since 2000.
"We now need to redouble our efforts to ensure every child, no matter where they're born, has access to lifesaving vaccines," Berkley said.