Vaccines have enormous impact not just on health, but on keeping people out of poverty, according to a new study led by researchers from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. They estimated that increased investments in 10 vaccines administered in low- and middle-income countries over a 15-year period could avert up to 36 million deaths and 24 million cases of medical impoverishment.
The study “The Equity Impact Vaccines May Have On Averting Deaths And Medical Impoverishment In Developing Countries,” was published February 5 in Health Affairs.
“This study explicitly points at how investing in vaccines in low- and middle-income countries can have a broad health and economic impact,” said Dr. Stéphane Verguet, assistant professor of global health. “Policy makers should look at targeted vaccine programs as powerful mechanisms for improving health equity and reducing poverty.”
The researchers developed a mathematical model to estimate the impact of distributing 10 vaccines — measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, Hemophilus influenzae type b, Streptococcus pneumoniae, rotavirus, rubella, Neisseria meningitidis serogroup A, and Japanese encephalitis — in 41 low- and middle-income countries from 2016 – 2030.
They found that the poorest households would likely receive the most benefit from increased access to vaccines, as they are at higher risk, are limited in their use of health care, and consequently are more vulnerable to vaccine-preventable diseases.
“Vaccines prevent not only diseases but also impoverishment. This is why it is so important that everyone, especially the poor, have timely access to high quality vaccines,” said first author Dr. Angela Chang, who was a doctoral candidate at Harvard Chan School when the research was completed and is currently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, University of Washington.
This study was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.