ILC-UK stress the economic benefits of flu vaccinations

Flu vaccination

New research by the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC-UK) argues that The Government should take into account the economic as well as the health benefits of vaccination when assessing its value. Flu vaccine saves millions in averted lost employment and lost informal care costs each year.

ILC-UK have developed a new static economic model which finds:

  • Vaccination averts between 180,000 and 626,000 cases of influenza per year in England
  • Flu vaccination helps avert between 5,678 and 8,800 premature deaths per year
  • The vast majority of hospital cases caused by influenza are among older adults.

The new research highlights how influenza can have an adverse impact on productivity within the economy. It finds that the greatest economic benefit from vaccination is derived from reducing the cost of lost employment and lost care giving (“human capital costs”).

Compared to other countries the UK does relatively well in terms of vaccinating the over 65s against flu (71% over those aged over 65 were vaccinated in 2015), however, the research highlights we are less good at vaccinating “at risk” groups. The researchers also argue that greater effort should be made by policymakers to increase coverage rates, especially among younger people who are actually more likely to contract flu.

The researchers find potential cost savings when the vaccine is well matched to disease but argue that, if we are to maximise the economic return, it is important to raise the efficacy of the vaccine among older age groups in particular. In years where the flu strains selected for the vaccine match those circulating in the community, the vaccine works better than those years in which there is a mismatch. Some vaccine technologies may also help by including a booster (known as an adjuvant) or by giving older people a higher dose.

ILC-UK argue that the cost-benefit analysis is highly sensitive to vaccine administration costs and urge The Government to look at ways of delivering the vaccination more efficiently. Given the costs of delivering a vaccine through a pharmacy are cheaper than through a GP, the authors argue there may be opportunities to find further reductions in the cost of delivery.

Ben Franklin, Assistant Director of Research and Policy said:

”Seasonal influenza remains a potent public health concern around the globe and much of the burden falls on older people. The flu continues to impose a serious burden on health services, as well as resulting in “productivity losses” due to poor health and sick days. Policymakers should take into account the economic as well as the health costs of vaccine preventable diseases when assessing the value of vaccination.”