Vaccines boost economic growth in poorest countries

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Harvard study predicts GAVI's investment in new and underused vaccines will yield an 18% rate of return by 2020 

Vaccines bring added value to the economies of the world's poorest countries with GAVI's investment in immunisation set to yield an 18% rate of return by 2020, according to a Harvard School of Public Health study.

The study, commissioned by GAVI in 2005 and entitled 'Value of Vaccination', concludes that long-term benefits of immunisation programmes in low-income countries should be measured in economic terms, not just lives saved.

We found powerful new sources of economic returns from immunisation.

David Bloom, Professor of Economics and Demography, Harvard School of Public Health

New sources of economic returns

Published in World Economics (July-September 2005), the study argues that healthier workers are more productive in the workplace because of their improved energy levels and better attendance records; their longer life expectancy also offers a greater incentive to invest in savings.

"When kids grow up healthier, they do better in school and, later, as adults, are more productive, earn more and save more. Overall, we found powerful new sources of economic returns from immunisation," said Harvard economists David Bloom and David Canning, authors of the study together with Mark Weston of River Path Associates, a knowledge consultancy based in the UK.

GAVI case study

Using GAVI as a case study, the report also argues that vaccination's economic benefits are produced at a remarkably low cost.

Analysing GAVI's support for Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), hepatitis B and yellow fever vaccines as well as plans to introduce new vaccines against pneumococcal disease, rotavirus infection and meningococcal A from 2010-15, the study estimates an 18% rate of return on GAVI investments by 2020.

Long-term returns on investment in vaccination stands comparision with the returns on basic eduction " Both increase the wages of children when they enter the workforce," says Canning, Professor of Economics and International Health..

"If we had calculated the value of savings, averted medical costs, welfare benefits associated with averted deaths or other effects - in addition to productivity gains - vaccination would likely blow the socks off other forms of development aid."

More on this topic

1.5 million

In 2012, approximately 6.6 million children died before the age of five. WHO estimates that 1.5 million of these deaths are due to vaccine-preventable diseases.

WHO

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