Over the past few years, the health status of many developing countries has improved significantly as the goal of increased accessibility and affordability of basic healthcare services became attainable across different regions of the world. Recently, researchers at Harvard University have debated the fact that vaccination is the key solution for not only lowering the number of deaths in developing countries, but also for alleviating the burden of medical expenses inflicted by poverty on the population and government.
The study was carried out by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health faculty, and was published in the journal of Health Affairs. Results highlighted that investments in preventive healthcare, particularly immunization which allow individuals to have access to 10 types of vaccines (measles, hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, yellow fever, rotavirus, rubella, Hib, pneumococcus, Neisseria menpngitidis and Japanese encephalitis) in 41 low-and-middle-income countries, could prevent a total of 36 million deaths over a period of 15 years.
It was also seen that 24 million cases of medical impoverishment could be prevented since most out-of-pocket medical expenses are usually associated with vaccination services in third world countries.
How Vaccination Acts As a Solution to Poverty
The following are five ways of how vaccination acts as a solution to poverty:
- Positive Economic ImpactAccording to Dr. Seth Berkley, CEO of the Vaccine Alliance-GAVI, vaccines not only save lives, but also generate huge economic impacts for families, communities and society at large. He further explained his point of view by stating that a healthy child who has received all of his/her vaccination will become a productive member of society and can then contribute positively to the prosperity of the country. The family of vaccinated children can also avoid any strenuous costs associated with vaccine-preventable diseases.
Increased Health Equity
By legislating new policies allowing people to afford the necessary vaccinations, poverty will eventually decrease, leading to improved equity on the global development agenda. New vaccination policies could be considered as a milestone contributing to the process of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and universal health coverage.
Reduced Mortality Rates
Poverty-related statistics reveal that people living in extreme poverty tend to benefit the most from increased access to vaccines since they are more susceptible to preventable infectious diseases. Increasing their access to complete vaccine doses can lower their risk of contracting deadly communicable diseases, and thus lower their overall healthcare costs.
A study conducted by John Hopkins University in 2016 found that every $1 spent on immunization efforts is equivalent to $16 saved on healthcare costs. Therefore, the more the population saves money by avoiding additional healthcare costs, the higher its productivity and income due to improved health. As a result, people are offered the opportunity to lead longer, healthier lives, and the return on investment rises to $44 per $1 spent on vaccines.
- Reduced Burden of Preventable Infectious DiseasesHepatitis B was estimated to cause 14 million cases of medical impoverishment per year, while measles and meningitis A generated 5 million and 3 million cases of poverty per year, respectively; Rotavirus was also set to cause 242,000 poverty cases per year. By providing people with the necessary vaccines, morbidity and mortality rates will decline significantly and thus lead to overall reduced poverty rates. Currently, measles vaccine is projected to prevent around 22 million deaths each year.
The assumption that vaccination acts as a solution to poverty is a highly supported public health issue that has caught the attention of medical professionals and public health workers all over the world. Such a powerful primary prevention method should be widely dispersed among the public in order to initiate the start of a bright, equitable future and a world where poverty is defeated.
– Lea Sacca