Adult patients who avoid vaccines cost the health care system $7 billion in preventable illness in 2015, according to a meta-analysis.

Sachiko Ozawa, PhD., of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her colleagues estimated the annual economic burden of diseases associated with 10 adult vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that protect against 14 pathogens by looking at studies with U.S. cost data for adult age groups and using cost-of-illness modeling (Health Affairs 2016 Oct. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2016.0462 ).

The total economic burden for vaccine-preventable diseases was estimated at $9 billion for 2015, Dr. Ozawa said. The majority (95%) of this was for direct costs, with $5.9 billion for inpatient treatment costs and $2.4 billion for outpatient treatment costs. The remaining 5% represented productivity losses as a result of wages lost during the course of treatment.

The cost of outpatient care ranged between $108 and $457 per patient, while the cost of medication ranged from $0 per patient for diseases that do not have curative drug treatments to $605 per patients treated for tetanus, investigators found. When it came to inpatient care, costs ranged from $5,770 per patient for those hospitalized for influenza to $15,600 for those hospitalized for invasive meningococcal disease.

Outpatient productivity loss per patient ranged from $29 for patients requiring a single outpatient visit to $154 for patients diagnosed with HPV-related cancers. Inpatient productivity loss per person ranged from $122 for patients with mumps to $580 for patients with tetanus.

The results underscore the need for improved uptake of vaccines among adults and the need for patients to better appreciate the value of vaccines, Dr. Ozawa said in an interview.

“If these individuals were to be vaccinated, than $7 billion in costs would be eliminated every year from the U.S. economy,” she said. “That’s pretty big. That’s the high-level takeaway.”

Dr. Ozawa said that she hopes the study will spur some creative policy solutions to increase vaccine usage, while preserving the autonomy of patients to make more informed choices.

On Twitter @legal_med


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