The study, which was published in the Health Affairs journal, was authored by Associate Professor Sachiko Ozawa, who led a team of researchers at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Ozawa and her team studied 10 vaccines that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended, focusing on the cost of medication, the value of time lost while seeking care and the cost of inpatient and outpatient care.
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The vaccines studied treat the herpes zoster virus that causes shingles, human papillomavirus, hepatitis A and B, influenza, mumps, rubella, measles, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, meningococcal disease, pertussis, chickenpox and diphtheria.
The flu virus was 2015’s most costly, totaling around $5.8 billion in health care costs and lost productivity, with the CDC estimating that 42% of adults in the US received the vaccine during that year’s flu season. Pneumonia and meningitis both had associated costs of nearing $1.9 billion, with $782 million going to herpes zoster.
Ozawa told UNC News, “We believe our estimates are conservative and highlight the potential economic benefit of increasing adult immunization coverage and the value of vaccines.”
“We hope our study will spur creative health care policies that minimize the negative spillover effects from people choosing not to be vaccinated while still respecting patients’ right to make informed choices,” she added.
Researchers found that lost productivity only accounted for about 5% of the cost of unvaccinated people to the US economy, with 95% going to inpatient and outpatient care.
Vaccine manufacturer Merck funded the study.