A government program implemented in 1994 likely prevented an estimated 322 million illnesses, 21 million hospitalizations, and 732,000 deaths in children born between then and 2013, and likely saved $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total societal costs, a model showed.
The Vaccines for Children (VFC) program began in 1994 to ensure that eligible children do not contract preventable diseases because of inability to pay. It was a response to a measles resurgence that resulted in approximately 55,000 cases reported from 1989 to 1991.
The resurgence was caused largely by widespread failure to vaccinate uninsured children, and was linked to an ongoing reservoir of the virus among high-density, low-income, inner-city populations. Although most children had a health care provider, providers missed opportunities to give measles vaccine when children were in their offices, sometimes referring low-income children to another clinic where vaccines were available at no cost
Researchers at the CDC used information on immunization coverage from the National Immunization Survey and a previously published cost-benefit model to create the estimates. Coverage for many childhood vaccine series was near or above 90% for much of the period.
Results appeared in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report
“Because of sustained high coverage, many vaccine-preventable diseases are now uncommon in the United States,” the authors wrote. As an example, “Measles was declared no longer endemic in the United States in 2000, in contrast to model estimates that 71 million cases would have occurred in children born in the VFC era without immunization.”