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Billions of Dollars Saved in U.S. By Polio Vaccination

A new study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) finds that polio vaccination in the United States //has resulted in a net savings of over $180 billion, even without including the large, intangible benefits associated with avoided fear and suffering. This first study to retrospectively demonstrate the enormous benefits of polio vaccination appears as part of a special issue on polio in the December 2006 issue of Risk Analysis.

The history of polio vaccination in the U.S. spans over 50 years and includes different phases of the disease, multiple vaccines, and a sustained significant commitment of financial resources. Lead author of the study, Kimberly Thompson, associate professor of risk analysis and decision science at HSPH, emphasized that this study “should help people understand and better appreciate the huge economic savings that can come from investments in public health interventions.”

The researchers, Professor Thompson and Dr. Radboud Duintjer Tebbens, a research associate at HSPH, estimated the costs and the effectiveness of historical polio vaccination strategies. They found that the U.S. invested over $35 billion between 1955 and 2005 and will continue to invest billions into the future to pay for polio vaccination. They estimated that these historical and future investments translate into over 1.7 billion vaccinations that prevent approximately 1.1 million cases of paralytic polio and over 160,000 deaths, thus saving Americans hundreds of billions of dollars in treatment costs.

Dr. Stephen Cochi, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global Immunization Division Senior Advisor and an expert on polio said, “This study documents the extraordinary power of vaccines not only as highly effective tools to prevent disease, disability, and death, but to provide enormous economic savings to society.”

Although the last case of paralytic polio from wild poliovirus occurred in the U
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