vaccines Neil Thomas/Getty Images

Africa’s Vaccination Test

In February, African health ministers meeting in Addis Ababa signed a widely praised declaration of their commitment to keeping immunization at the forefront of efforts to save the continent’s children from death and disease. But fulfilling that commitment will be no easy feat. owing to high – and rising – vaccine costs.

BOSTON – In February in Addis Ababa, African health ministers signed a widely celebrated declaration of their commitment to keeping immunization at the forefront of efforts to save the continent’s children from death and disease. Fulfilling that commitment will be no easy feat. Immunization is not just a health issue; it is also an economic challenge.

The case for vaccination is strong. Globally, an estimated 2-3 million child deaths and 600,000 adult deaths are prevented annually through immunization. Moreover, immunization is considered one of the most cost-effective public-health interventions for reducing child morbidity, mortality, and disability. A recent study estimates that every dollar spent on vaccination will save $16 in costs of illnesses averted. Accounting for the value individuals place on longer and healthier lives, net returns on investments in immunization soar to some 44 times the cost. And net returns exceed costs for all vaccines.

Significant progress has been made. In 2014, 86% of children were immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, compared to less than 5% in 1974. And there have been extraordinary advances in the number and kinds of vaccines that are available.

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