Vaccines are one of the most successful and cost-effective health investments in history

Vaccination currently saves between 2 and 3 million lives every year.1 Vaccines as public health tools – eradicating smallpox, containing polio to just three endemic countries and greatly reducing many other diseases – have an indisputable track record.

The impact of vaccines goes far beyond saving lives and improving health. Vaccination is in every sense an investment, with wider benefits that accrue across a lifetime.

A strand of recent research has focused on both short- and long-term, direct and indirect benefits of immunisation – classifying them into “narrow” and “broad” categories.2 

The narrow benefits of immunisation are limited to preventing healthcare costs and loss of productivity for the patient and the person caring for him or her.

The recent move towards a broader approach to the benefits of vaccination shows that many other aspects of society and the economy are positively affected by immunisation. For instance, by preventing illness, immunisation improves a child's cognitive skills, physical strength and performance at school. In the long term, this leads to increased productivity.

By improving financial security and reducing risk, preventing illness through vaccination may lead to increased investment and improved political and economic stability. Through an effect known as herd immunity, it also helps to protect unvaccinated individuals in the community.2,3,4 

Tried and tested

From Jenner and Pasteur to modern-day medicine, immunisation has an impressive track record.

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From Jenner and Pasteur to modern-day medicine, immunisation has an impressive track record.

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Added value

Vaccines help healthy people stay healthy, removing a major obstacle to development.

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Vaccines help healthy people stay healthy, removing a major obstacle to development.

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Cost-effective

Immunising children is one of the “best buys” in public health.

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Immunising children is one of the “best buys” in public health.

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Health equity

Equal access to vaccines is a pre-requisite for social and economic development.

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Equal access to vaccines is a pre-requisite for social and economic development.

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1 World Health Organisation. Global Immunisation Factsheet. 2016 Sept: available at http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs378/en/. Retrieved 2016 Sept
2 Bärnighausen T, Bloom D.E, Cafiero-Fonseca E.T, O’Brien J. Valuing Vaccination. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2014 Aug;111(34):12313-19
3 Jit M, Hutubessy R, Png M.E, Sundaram N, Audimulam J et al. The broader economic impact of vaccination: reviewing an appraising the strength of evidence. BMC Medicine. 2015 Sep;13(1):1
4 Bärnighausen T, Bloom D.E, Canning D, O’Brien J. Accounting for the full benefits of childhood vaccination in South Africa. PGDA Working Paper. 2008 Aug; 39:1.

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Last updated: 15 Sep 2020

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