Why Immunizations Are Important

by Chris Regal

August 1, 2017

Immunization among all populations in the United States is one of the most cost-effective means of preventing disease. Across the country, approximately 42,000 adults and 300 children die each year from vaccine-preventable disease. To spread the word about the importance of immunizations and encourage action to improve immunization rates, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is rolling out new information throughout August during National Immunization Awareness Month.

Immunizations are important for a variety of reasons. By receiving an immunization for a disease, a person defends him or herself against catching that disease. But the benefits do not stop there; society gains a collective immunization as more and more people become immune to a particular disease. Once a collective immunization has been established, once-dangerous diseases can be eradicated. Polio, for example, was eliminated in the United States in 1979 after vaccinations became widespread. The CDC estimates 21 million hospitalizations and 732,000 deaths will be avoided among children born in the last 20 years as a result of vaccines.

In addition to health benefits, the economic value of immunizations cannot be overstated. Influenza, a vaccine-preventable disease, costs the country $10.4 billion annually. Among adults over the age of 50, the four major vaccine-preventable diseases (influenza, pneumococcal disease, shingles, and pertussis) cost the United States $26.5 billion a year. By protecting against diseases with immunizations, billions of dollars could be saved. Case in point: Over the last 20 years, the CDC estimates vaccinations will save nearly $295 billion in direct costs and $1.38 trillion in total costs to society. Childhood vaccines alone are projected to save $13.5 billion in direct costs and $68.8 billion in total societal costs for all children born in a particular year.

Vaccines are recommended throughout a person’s lifetime, with specific immunizations associated with different age groups such as infants, young children, preteens, adults, and older adults.

The recommendations are developed by the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), after reviewing vaccine recommendations and available scientific evidence. The National Vaccine Advisory Committee (NVAC) also contributes to immunization recommendations, as it recommends research priorities to enhance the safety and efficacy of vaccines, and provides recommendations on the best ways to ensure that the country has an adequate supply of safe, effective vaccines.

Do you want to encourage people to get the immunizations they need? Join the health insurance community and other health care stakeholders in helping the CDC spread the word during August by using the hashtag #NIAM17 on social media. More information on National Immunization Awareness Month and immunizations can be found at CDC.gov.

Christopher Regal is Senior Health Research Associate, Clinical Affairs and Strategic Planning at AHIP.