The World Health Organization has released a new report on childhood immunization. It holds a surprising amount of good news. We’ve got more vaccines, and more effective vaccines, than ever before. The number of child deaths is falling globally. However, despite the good news, 20% of children – mainly in Africa and Asia – are still not getting the full set of vaccines.
So what do we do about it? The WHO estimates that it will cost an additional $76 billion through 2015 to protect 90% of children, and get to herd immunity, in 117 low- and middle- income UN member states. This would mean vaccinating them for 14 illnesses – diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, measles, polio, tuberculosis, hepatitis B, Hib, rubella, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, rotavirus, Japanese encephalitis (where needed), and yellow fever. This would save the lives of 2 million children a year.
The question, I guess, at this point comes down to whether the world community willing to spend $6300 per child’s life?
If you’re wondering how it can cost so much to deliver vaccines, it’s because we need more than just the vaccines themselves to immunize a child. You need a health system capable of tracking children so they know to vaccinate them, a health worker to do the vaccination, and a logistics system capable of keeping the vaccines cold until they’re delivered. The 20% of kids left insufficiently vaccinated are the ones who are hard to reach; it’s going to take a major investment in health systems to get to them.