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Unvaccinated adults cost U.S. billions in care, lost productivity


Lead researcher hopes results of new study motivates more adults to improve vaccination compliance.

A new study has put a price tag on the cost of vaccination non-compliance among U.S. adults, and it reaches into the billions.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted the study using data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey and the Nationwide Inpatient Sample database and analyzed the total costs-including both the cost of medical treatment and lost productivity-of unvaccinated adults.

Sachiko Ozawa, PhD, MHS, associate professor in the division of practice advancement and clinical education at the University of North Carolina’s Eshelman School of Pharmacy in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, led the study, which examined the actual cost of medication, inpatient and outpatient care and lost productivity related to the failure of adult patients to receive any of 10 vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The 10 vaccines studied protect against hepatitis A and B, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus, influenza, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, diptheria, pertussis and chickenpox.

Next: Which preventable illnesses were the most costly?


Of all the illness that resulted from the missed vaccinations, influenza was the most costly, according to the report, resulting in an annual cost of $5.8 billion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. An estimated 42% of adults were vaccinated against the flu last year, according to the CDC.

Significant costs were also associated with pneumococcal disease, at $1.9 billion in treatment and lost productivity costs, and herpes zoster, costing roughly $782 million, according to the study.

Ozawa told Medical Economics the figures are believed to be conservative estimates of the true cost of missed adult vaccinations, and that she hopes the results of the study will motivate more adults to improve vaccination compliance.

Vaccine-preventable diseases in adults cost almost $9 billion in 2015 alone, and 80% of that cost is due to poor vaccine compliance, according to a new report. Inpatient and outpatient medical care to treat the disease-preventable conditions accounts for about 95% of the costs, and lost productivity accounted for another 5%.

“With rising healthcare costs, it is important to discuss the value of vaccines,” Ozawa said, adding that PCPs should remind patients that vaccines can prevent diseases and save costs to individuals, families and the healthcare system.

“Unvaccinated individuals cost the U.S. economy $7 billion on treatment of vaccine preventable diseases,” she said. “This includes the actual cost of inpatient and outpatient care, cost of medication and the value of productivity lost from time spent seeking care. This is on top of the health impact of actually feeling sick and the chance of passing the illness in the family, school or workplace. Why not prevent diseases we can prevent and save healthcare costs?”

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