Economic and societal impacts of vaccines

Immunisation is one of most cost-effective ways to save lives, improve health and ensure long-term prosperity.

Video transcript

Why is immunisation important for public health?


Immunisation is quite simply the best buy after safe water and sanitation. Immunisation as a public health intervention has had more impact on bottom line public health than any other intervention in history.


What is the best way of ensuring that people who need vaccinations have access to them?


We need to do a better job of listening to communities, we need to do a better job of listening to our populations, so that those vaccination services are delivered in a way that they want them to be delivered. So in other words, so they're more accessible, and they're more appealing, those services to the communities that wish to vaccinate.


At the moment we don't do a good enough job at that. In all honesty, we talk about patient centric care, we talk about community centric health care delivery, but we don't do a good enough job of tailoring our immunisation programmes to the needs of populations that are marginalised and ultimately populations that are susceptible to these diseases because they're not vaccinated.


What excites you the most about vaccination in the future?


Of course, there are a number of different technological advancements, which I find very exciting, such as the micro needle or the patch which will eliminate the need of the use or need of an injection, which I think will be a remarkable achievement in itself.


What I'm most excited about is bringing in other disciplines to how we look at vaccination and vaccination behaviours, how we assure that more people are vaccinated in the future, and more populations are protected against these very dangerous diseases.

Robb Butler is the Programme Manager for Vaccine Preventable Diseases and Immunisation at the World Health Organisation and spoke to us about the value of immunisation and vaccination.

1. The economic impact of vaccination is broad

By promoting good health in children, vaccines help to increase cognitive skills, physical strength and performance at school.2

Increasing investments in vaccination can potentially help keep people healthy and empower them to be independent contributors to society and active for longer.Vaccination helps to prevent productivity loss through illness and absence from work.4 6 million working days are lost in the UK due to seasonal influenza every year.5

Vaccines help reduce the risk of catching infectious diseases while travelling, making it safer for people to travel for work or leisure.6

2. Global investment in vaccines has a giant impact

Decisions about whether to implement a new immunisation programme are usually based on the health benefits of vaccination but when broader societal benefits such as education or productivity are considered, vaccination is even more cost-effective.7

For every dollar invested in vaccination in the world’s 94 lowest-income countries, US$16 are expected to be saved in healthcare costs, lost wages and lost productivity due to illness and death.

If we include broader benefits, such as the value that people place on living healthier, longer lives and the long-term burden of disability, the net return increases to US$ 44 per dollar invested.8

The cost-effectiveness of immunisation has made vaccines increasingly affordable for low-income countries. While all low-income countries are largely dependent on external support to finance vaccination, domestic investment in immunisation is rising.8

Pharmaceutical companies based in industrialised countries like the UK help provide an adequate supply of suitable vaccines through Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance to people living in the world’s poorest countries. Our members are:

  • Making vaccines available at low prices and participating in innovative financing mechanisms, such as the Advance Market Commitment (AMC), which provides a platform for investing in the development of a sustainable supply of breakthrough vaccines.
  • Helping develop technologies that facilitate the distribution of vaccines and the way they are administered.
  • Contributing to the education of public health officials and working to engage other private sector organisations in Gavi’s mission.9

The UK Government was one of the six original donors to Gavi and continues to be a major supporter. For the period 2016-20 the UK contributed £1.44 billion to Gavi, making up almost one quarter of the total funds.10

3. And in the UK has a positive impact on the economy and society

4. But high uptake is needed to keep infectious diseases under control

If people stop being vaccinated, infectious diseases can quickly start to spread again.16

When a high percentage of the population is vaccinated, it is difficult for infectious diseases to spread, because there are not many people who can be infected. This is called herd immunity.17

Some people in the community rely on herd immunity to protect them. These groups are particularly vulnerable to disease, but often cannot safely receive vaccine. This includes new-born babies, elderly people, and people whose immune system doesn’t work properly.17

Measles is a highly infectious diseases which was eliminated from the UK in 2016. Elimination status was lost in 2019 as vaccination rates fell below the 95% needed to maintain protection.18

5. Investment in vaccination needs to continue to maintain the quality of health protection currently provided in the UK

The Government’s 2018 Prevention Vision committed to maintaining and evolving the national immunisation programme by improving uptake of existing vaccines and incorporating new ones.Investing in immunisation will have a positive impact on public health and the NHS. The Government is developing a Vaccine Strategy.

References and further links

1 Gavi, The Vaccines Alliance (Gavi, Apr 2018)

2 Value of Vaccination (Gavi, Jun 2018)

3 Kobe Centre, Aging (WHO, 2020)

4 Sinclair D, Walker T. Immune response. adult immunisation in the UK (The International Longevity Centre, Nov 2013)

5 Economic Impact of seasonal influenza (European Scientific Working Group on Influenza (ESWI), Mar 2018)

6 Andre FE et al. Vaccination greatly reduces disease, disability death and inequity worldwide. Bulletin of World Health Organisation 2008;86:81-160

7 Valuing vaccination (PNAS, Jul 2018)

8 Gavi. Value of vaccinations – Cost effective (Gavi, Apr 2020)

9 Gavi. Industrial county pharmaceutical industry (Gavi, Apr 2020)

10 Gavi. United Kingdom (Gavi, Apr 2020)

11 Prevention is better than cure (DHSC, 2018)

12 Jenner’s Legacy; Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2007 Chapter 5 (DH, 2007).

13 DHSC annual report and accounts 2018-19, page 189 (DHSC, 2019)

14 Budget 2018: What is means for health and social care (Kings Fund, Nov 2018)

15 Investment and Evolution: Update to the GP contract agreement 2020/21 – 2023/24 (NHS, BMA, Feb 2020)

16 Why vaccination is safe and important (NHS, Apr 2020)

17 Herd immunity (Vaccine Knowledge Project, Ap 2020)

18 UK measles and rubella elimination strategy 2019 (PHE, 2019)