Another Vaccine Success Story

Today’s Managing Health Care Costs Indicator is 
$200 million

The October Journal of Infectious Diseases reports that rotavirus vaccine, administered to prevent early childhood diarrhea, decreased the number of hospitalizations for diarrhea by 66,000.  This represented a decrease of 69% for discharges coded as rotavirus, and 36% for all hospital discharges with diarrhea of unspecified cause. 

Between 15-20% of this decrease was due to ‘herd immunity,’ where even the 43% of infants that had not gotten a single dose got some protection because there was less rotavirus in the community due to those who did get vaccinated.  Huge decreases in hospitalizations were seen in children ages 5-14, who had not received the vaccine.  This is similar to findings with influenza vaccine, where immunizing young children might be an especially effective way to prevent flu deaths among the elderly.

The total savings from hospitalizations prevented by the rotavirus vaccine was estimated to be over $200 million.

Immunizations remain one of the few medical interventions that are not merely cost-effective, but which are frankly cost saving.  The newer childhood vaccines, which are quite expensive, probably won’t be nearly as cost saving as the older vaccines, such as the measles-mumps- rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Rotavirus vaccine costs between $60 and $70 per dose. We should we consider the prevention of disease in those who themselves are not vaccinated when we calculate the overall cost impact of these vaccines.