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Polio Vaccine Savings

February 15, 2007

When it comes to public health, spending money can save money.


Accounting for the polio vaccine. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Since 1955, America has spent 35 billion dollars on polio vaccination. But that’s generated a net savings of over 180 billion dollars. This according to a new analysis by scientists at the Harvard School of Public Health. Lead author Kimberly Thompson says they modeled how the disease would have spread without vaccinations, and then estimated how much it would have cost to treat it.

KIMBERLY THOMPSON (Harvard School of Public Health):
People often don’t realize that it’s hard to get credit for things that don’t happen. Because if people don’t see the benefits of the intervention, but they look at the cost, then they might misperceive how very valuable public health interventions are.

She says that’s an important lesson not only for efforts to eradicate polio in developing countries, but also for our own health care system, in which emergency treatment often trumps preventive care. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.