The Value of Vaccines in Disease Prevention: A Global Perspective


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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunizations save an estimated 2-3 million lives each year from vaccine-preventable infections.5

It is well-documented that some vaccines decrease antibiotic use, thus lowering the likelihood of antibiotic resistance.6 This suggests that vaccines can play a role in decreasing antibiotic resistant infections.2 The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now advocates for the development of and improved access to vaccines as a tool for addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR).7


Vaccines have dramatically reduced the threat of diseases that were once widespread and oftentimes fatal.8 Today, more people benefit from safe and effective vaccines than ever before — and the list of diseases that vaccines can help to prevent continues to grow. Vaccines help reduce health care costs to both patients and the broader health care system by reducing the incidence of vaccine-preventable illness including associated hospitalizations and death.8 Continued investment in new vaccine technologies is critical for the development of new and more effective ways to address unmet medical needs.

It is estimated that vaccinations prevented 26 million cases of childhood disease in the U.S. in the past decade, representing approximately 99 percent of diseases that would have occurred.9

Routine vaccination with Hepatitis B vaccine in China has prevented an estimated 120 million infections, including 28 million chronic infections, between 1992 and 2014. By preventing these infections, many individuals averted hepatitis B-associated liver cirrhosis and/or cancer.10

AMR is a significant public health problem, negatively impacting millions of people worldwide and costing billions of dollars. Vaccines can help by (1) preventing an individual from ever developing an infection which requires antibiotic treatment, and (2) reducing the transmission and circulation of certain types of bacteria strains that are antibiotic resistant.11


Timely use of vaccinations and adherence to the WHO’s recommended vaccination schedules for infants, children, and adults prevent morbidity and mortality, and save millions of dollars in direct medical costs to the health care system and prevent indirect costs associated with the illnesses.12 The further development and appropriate implementation of new, innovative vaccines may continue to cut costs.

In a recent study, it was estimated that routine childhood vaccination in U.S. children born in 2009 would be valued over their collective lifetimes at $8.9 billion for measles vaccination, $2.7 billion for pneumococcal disease, and $595 million for rotavirus.15

The ability to prevent 20 million deaths by vaccinating children and adults against ten vaccine-preventable diseases has a total estimated economic and social value of $820 billion in low- and middle-income countries.14

In 2015, infections from vaccine-preventable diseases in unvaccinated individuals cost approximately $7.1 billion in the U.S.12 This included 4,450 cases of pertussis, with an average cost of $600 per case.14 Given that the pertussis vaccine costs between $25-44, significant cost savings could have been realized through vaccination.16

A recent modeling study estimated that routine childhood immunization among children born in the U.S. between 1994 and 2013 will prevent an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,00 deaths over the course of their lifetimes, with a net savings of $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs.17

Cost of Outbreaks Around the World

Globally, vaccinations help save billions of dollars by reducing the need for additional healthcare related costs. Between 2001 and 2020 in 73 low- and middle-income countries, avoiding costs of treatment for vaccine-preventable diseases saves $4.6 billion; avoiding lost wages of caretakers saves $886 million; avoiding long-term costs of lost productivity due to disability and death may add savings of around $341 billion.18 Evidence also indicates that increases in vaccination rates lead to economically significant and sustained increases in the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate.19

Seasonal Influenza in the United States

Less than half of the U.S. population is vaccinated for influenza each year, leading to direct health care costs and indirect productivity costs related to absenteeism from paid employment. Based on 2015 population numbers, there were 26.2 million cases of seasonal influenza in the U.S. with a total annual economic burden of $11.2 billion. Of those costs, $3.2 billion were for direct healthcare costs and $8.0 billion for indirect costs. Persons aged 65 and older had the largest share of total direct costs, primarily due to hospitalizations.20

Measles Outbreak in the Netherlands

A measles outbreak in 2013-2014 in the Netherlands resulted in 2,700 measles cases (mostly in children) with a total economic burden of approximately €3.9 million. Even with a national plan to manage the outbreak, restricting the spread of measles was difficult and there were reported cases linked to this outbreak in Canada, the United States, and Belgium.21

Measles Outbreak in the Beijing

A 2015 measles outbreak in Beijing lasted 19 days and resulted in 22 reported cases of measles (all in unvaccinated adults). Controlling the outbreak cost $384,594 and required 21,471 personnel hours.22

Pertussis Outbreak in Amsterdam

Health care workers (HCWs) exposed to infectious diseases are positioned to transfer the disease to susceptible patients. Vaccinating HCWs can help prevent costly outbreaks. A recent study found that a pertussis outbreak on the neonatal ward in Amsterdam cost €48,682, but preventively vaccinating HCWs would only have cost €12,208, suggesting that €4 could be saved for every €1 spent on vaccinating HCWs.23


The development and use of newer innovative vaccines helps us fight infectious diseases that had been previously difficult to vaccinate against. Since new strains are constantly emerging, the ability to develop innovative vaccines is important to meet emerging infectious disease challenges. Vaccines have proven to be an extremely effective way to prevent morbidity and mortality associated with infectious disease. CDC epidemiological surveillance demonstrates up to 99 to 100 percent reduction in several life-threatening infectious diseases in the U.S., as shown in the adapted table below.


1. United States Fund for UNICEF. (n.d.). Immunization for All Children: Think BIG. Retrieved from | 2.Andre, F. E., et al. (2008). Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability, death and inequity worldwide. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 86(2):81-160. | 3. See: | 4. See: | 5. See: | 6. Zhou, F., et al. (2008). Trends in acute otitis media-related health care utilization by privately insured young children in the United States, 1997-2004. Pediatrics. 121(2):253-60. | 7. See: | 8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). 2020 Topics & Objectives; Immunization and Infectious Diseases. Retrieved from | 9. Van Panhuis, W.G., et al. (2013). Contagious disease in the United States from 1888 to the present. NEJM. 369(22):2152-8. | 10. See: | 11. See: | 12. See: | 13. Adult Vaccine Access Coalition. 2016. The value and imperative of quality measures for adult vaccines. Retrieved from | 14. The ten vaccine-preventable pathogens are: Haemophilus influenzae type b, Hepatitis B virus, Human papillomavirus, Japanese encephalitis virus, Measles virus, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, Rotavirus, Rubella virus, Streptococcus pneumoniae, and Yellow fever. Ozawa, S., et al. (2017). Estimated economic impact of vaccinations in 73 low- and middle-income countries, 2001-2020. Bull World Health Organ 95:629-38. Retrieved from | 15. Zhou, F., et al. (2014). Economic evaluation of the routine childhood immunization program in the United States, 2009. Pediatrics. 133(4):577–85. | 16. See: | 17. Whitney, C. (2014) Benefits from Immunization During the Vaccines for Children Program Era — United States, 1994–2013. Retrieved from | 18. Ozawa, S., et al. (2017). Estimated economic impact of vaccinations in 73 low- and middle-income countries, 2001–2020. Bulletin of the World Health Organization. 95(9):629–38. | 19. Masia, N.A., et al. (2018). Vaccination and GDP growth rates: Exploring the links in a conditional convergence framework. World Dev. 103:88-99. | 20. Putri, W.C.W.S., et al. (2018). Economic burden of seasonal influenza in the United States. Vaccine. 36(27):3960-6. | 21. Suijkerbuijk, A.W.M., et al. (2015). Economic Costs of Measles Outbreak in the Netherlands, 2013–2014. Emerg Infect Dis. 21(11):2067–9. | 22. Ma, R., et al. (2017). An expensive adult measles outbreak and response in office buildings during the era of accelerated measles elimination, Beijing, China. Vaccine. 35(8):1117–23. | 23.Tariq, L., et al. (2015). Modelling the return on investment of preventively vaccinating healthcare workers against pertussis. BMC Infectious Diseases. 15(1):75. | 24. Roush, S. W. (2007). Historical Comparisons of Morbidity and Mortality for Vaccine-Preventable Diseases in the United States. JAMA. 298(18): 2155-63. | 25. See:

Issued by Global Policy

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), immunizations save an estimated 2-3 million lives every year.5

The ability to prevent 20 million deaths by vaccination against ten vaccine-preventable diseases has a total estimated economic and social value of $820 billion in low- and middle-income countries.14

In the U.S., immunization of infants born in 2009 would save an estimated $13.5 billion in direct costs over their collective lifetimes.11

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