Sept. 1 (UPI) -- New research from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shows that vaccines in the world's poorest countries will have prevented 20 million deaths by 2020.
The study, published this week in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, found that vaccination efforts since 2001 not only saved lives, but will also have saved $350 billion in healthcare costs by 2020 with a larger economic and social value of lives saved and disabilities prevented of $820 billion.
"Vaccination is generally regarded to be one of the most cost-effective interventions in public health," Sachiko Ozawa, an associate professor of the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, said in a press release. "Decision-makers need to appreciate the full potential economic benefits that are likely to result from the introduction and sustained use of any vaccine or vaccination program."
Researchers analyzed the impact of Gavi, the global vaccine alliance launched in 2000 to provide vaccines to children in the world's poorest countries. With Gavi, 580 million children have been vaccinated in 73 countries.
The savings, calculated in 2010 U.S. dollars, include averted treatment, transportation costs, productivity losses of caregivers and those due to disability and death.
"Our examination of the broader economic and social value of vaccines illustrates the substantial gains associated with vaccination," Ozawa said. "Unlike previous estimates that only examine the averted costs of treatment, our estimates of the broader economic and social value of vaccines reflect the intrinsic value that people place on living longer and healthier lives."
The study showed that each of the Gavi supported countries will have avoided an average of $5 million in treatment costs per year as a result of vaccines against hepatitis B, human papillomavirus, Japanese encephalitis, rotavirus, rubella, measles, yellow fever and three strains of pneumonia and meningitis.
The greatest economic benefit was seen from vaccinations against hepatitis B, measles, haemophilus influenzae type b and streptococcus pneumoniae.
By 2020, the vaccines are estimated to have prevented roughly 20 million deaths, 500 million cases of illness, 9 million cases of long-term disability and 960 million years of disability, the researchers report.