The human cost of not getting vaccinated is well known–measles, diphtheria and other outbreaks reported across the globe.

All very unnecessary. The history of the success of vaccines is well documented- Nearly 200 million cases of polio, measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, adenovirus, rabies and hepatitis A — and approximately 450,000 deaths from these diseases — were prevented in the U.S. alone between 1963 and 2015 by vaccination, researchers estimate in a 2016 study.

5 Vaccine preventable diseases in the US: Then and now

Image/QuinceMedia via pixabay
Image/QuinceMedia via pixabay

However, there is also a huge economic and workforce cost to the public health departments, health institutions and ultimately the taxpayer.

After the Utah Department of Health declared their measles outbreak, linked to the Disneyland outbreak, over in 2015 we find:

The Utah Department of Health (UDOH) made more than 1,600 phone calls to the 117 individuals who were placed in voluntary quarantine. These individuals were monitored for symptoms of disease on a daily basis throughout their 21-day quarantine. The Utah Public Health Laboratory (UPHL) conducted 29 laboratory tests and sent two samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for confirmatory testing. Utah County Health Department administered 586 doses of the measles, mumps, rubella (MMR) vaccine in January alone, and logged more than 600 staff hours (UCHD typically gives about 100 MMR vaccinations a month). In addition, public health partnered with the Utah Poison Control Center, which triaged nearly 300 phone calls from the public.

Public health’s direct cost for the measles outbreak response was approximately $115,000. Those costs include such items as public health staff hours: approximately 90 employees spent nearly 3,000 hours working the outbreak, including administering vaccines and immunoglobulin and laboratory testing. The estimate does not include other indirect costs such as public education and awareness, provider consultation conducted by local health departments, or any private health care associated costs. These costs are difficult to determine, but would certainly increase the overall cost of responding to the outbreak.

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In 2017, the measles outbreak in Minnesota that affected some 79 people, mostly children, costed the state health department $2.3 million during the five-month outbreak.

Public health costs of disease investigation in two single measles case investigations in 2016-2017 in Denver, Colorado  were estimated at $49,769 and $18,423, respectively.

Other published cost estimates of public health agency response to a single measles case range from $5,655 through $181,679.

Lastly, the case of an unvaccinated Oregon boy who contracted tetanus in 2017 ended up racking up huge medical costs.

The boy required 57 days of inpatient acute care, including 47 days in the intensive care unit. The inpatient charges totaled $811,929 (excluding air transportation, inpatient rehabilitation, and ambulatory follow-up costs).

The health care costs to treat this child’s preventable disease were approximately 72 times the mean (2012) cost of $11,143 for a U.S. pediatric hospitalization. A recent report describing adult tetanus cases included hospital charges ranging from $22,229 to $1,024,672.

Not getting vaccinated is not only dangerous, but can certainly carry a large price tag. All quite preventable.