Gavi’s vaccine program to save 20M lives, $350B by 2020: study

child receiving rotavirus vaccine
A study published by the WHO finds that Gavi's vaccine initiative will have saved 20 million lives and $350 billion in healthcare costs by 2020. (Gavi)

Nonprofit international organization Gavi has been working to increase access to vaccines in lower-income countries since 2000. The good it’s doing will have amounted to 20 million lives, along with $350 billion in healthcare costs, saved by 2020, a new study found.

The study, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization, further estimates that the overall broader economic and social impact of Gavi’s vaccine initiative during those 20 years could reach $820 billion.

For the work, researchers led by Sachiko Ozawa, Ph.D., from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, analyzed data from Gavi’s vaccination activities in 73 countries across 10 diseases: H. influenzae type b, hepatitis B, HPV, Japanese encephalitis, measles, rubella, meningitis A, pneumococcus, rotavirus and yellow fever. It’s worth noting that these are not exhaustive of all the vaccines Gavi provides.

The $350 billion in savings from the efforts includes averted treatment and transportation costs for seeking care, reduction in caregivers’ economic output and loss of productivity due to death and disability.

“Decision-makers need to appreciate the full potential economic benefits that are likely to result from the introduction and sustained use of any vaccine or vaccination program,” Ozawa said in a statement.

Launched at the World Economic Forum in 2000, Gavi has formed strong partnerships with international agencies like UNICEF—which procures vaccines offered through Gavi—as well as with national government bodies and vaccine makers.

Sanofi Pasteur, for example, has been offering Gavi its yellow fever vaccine at low costs and has also been providing significant quantities of inactivated polio vaccine. Gavi offered $27.5 million to support pilot studies on malaria vaccine Mosquirix manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, which is supplying its rotavirus vaccine Rotarix, HPV vaccine Cervarix and pneumococcal vaccine Synflorix to Gavi; the British pharma also pledged to implement a 10-year price freeze after a country graduates from Gavi support. Janssen, Merck and Pfizer are also key Gavi supporters.

With financial backing from different parties public and private, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gavi has provided immunization to 640 million children worldwide, the organization said.

According to the study’s findings, societies can achieve greater savings through vaccination against H. influenzae type b, HPV, measles and pneumococcus than the other diseases evaluated. Protection against the flu virus, hep B and pneumococcus together will contribute over half of the total $820 billion economic and social value of vaccination during the 20-year period, according to the researchers.