Study Finds Adult Vaccination Programs Deliver 19x Returns
A medical assistant gives a flu vaccination at the Arzthaus in Zurich, Switzerland, on January 30, 2015. (KEYSTONE/Gaetan Bally)

Amidst the anticipated increase in vaccine-preventable diseases as the global population ages, a first-of-its-kind study has underscored the dual benefits of adult immunization programs.

Beyond saving lives and preventing severe illnesses, the study found these programs offer substantial financial advantages to nations by reducing the need for costly hospitalizations and emergency medical interventions and avoiding expensive productivity losses.

The research, carried out by the Office of Health Economics (OHE) and funded by IFPMA, revealed that adult vaccination programs can deliver a return of up to 19 times the investment. When considering the comprehensive range of benefits and using the most widely accepted valuation approach for each program, these programs translate into billions of dollars in net monetary gains for society. On an individual level, this equates to approximately $4637 in net benefits for a complete vaccination course, according to the study.

“The high-level results are overwhelmingly positive and offer so much value – much more value than the cost of delivering the vaccines,” Prof Lotte Steuten, deputy CEO of OHE and co-author of the report, told Health Policy Watch. “Government decision-makers should rest assured that this is a good idea, high value, and you will get more in return.”

Prof Lotte Steuten, deputy CEO of OHE
Prof Lotte Steuten, deputy CEO of OHE

Promoting Health, Productivity, and Equity

Specifically, the study looks at adult immunization programs targeting four diseases, three life-threatening illnesses and one causing severe pain and hospitalizations: influenza (flu), pneumococcal disease (PD), herpes zoster (HZ), and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). These programs were examined across 10 countries: Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, South Africa, Thailand, and the United States of America.

Steuten said the 10 countries were chosen to provide a balanced mix of societies regarding income level, demographics, disease incidents and availability of adult vaccination programs. She said that the goal was to ensure that decision-makers globally could relate to the list of countries and find resonance with the study’s findings.

The study’s findings came from reviewing published research about how these diseases affect adults and the benefits of vaccines for health, hospitals, and society. The researchers also used a method called health economic modeling to figure out the costs versus the benefits and the money saved by using adult vaccination programs in the 10 countries.

Steuten pointed out two additional important discoveries from the study: first, expanding vaccination programs for adults can help people and their caregivers be more productive. Second, these programs can also promote fairness in health and economics within countries, especially helping those who are at risk or don’t have enough access to healthcare.

“People can stay active, and that’s very important, particularly for an aging society—for people with paid and unpaid work, such as caring for their loved ones or their grandchildren,” Steuten said.

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Actionable Recommendations

The report was released ahead of World Immunization Week, and its authors noted that the findings support major global initiatives like the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the UN’s Decade of Healthy Aging (2021-2030), and the World Health Organization’s Immunization Agenda 2030. The latter focuses on encouraging vaccinations for all ages, stressing the importance of understanding the benefits of adult immunization and the need for national strategies that cover immunization throughout a person’s life.

The authors provide actionable recommendations for countries based on the study’s results. These recommendations include embracing a prevention-focused approach, allocating sufficient funding to enhance adult immunization programs and accessibility, and further developing the evidence supporting the value of these programs for adults.

“Increasing pressures on ailing healthcare systems, such as aging populations, are driving an urgent need to shift to a prevention-first mindset. Our report sets out a compelling case for adult immunization programs playing a key role in the shift to prevention,” concluded Steuten. “Our findings show that costs are offset multiple times over by benefits to society when governments invest in adult immunization programs.

“These returns are realized through benefits to individuals, families, and communities, providing a clear call to action to countries not already implementing or expanding robust vaccination schedules.”

Image Credits: Unsplash, KEYSTONE/Gaetan Bally, Office of Health Economics, PAHO.

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