Vaccines "save lives by protecting people against disease," but they "also are an engine for economic growth -- far beyond their health benefits," GAVI Alliance CEO Seth Berkley writes in a CNN opinion piece. GAVI and its "many partners, including prominent companies," "recognize that in addition to the humanitarian need, countries such as Tanzania are emerging markets that can fulfill their economic ambitions only if they also can ensure good health for their citizens," he states. Berkley describes efforts to increase vaccination rates in Tanzania, and he writes, "[W]e know for a fact that vaccines -- in addition to saving lives and improving health -- are the cornerstone of a vibrant economy, fuel growth and serve as a magnet for foreign investment. Indeed, research has shown vaccines to be among the most cost-effective investments in global development."
Several studies "that look beyond the health impacts [of vaccines] toward areas such as cognitive development, educational attainment, labor productivity, and financial attainment ... are getting noticed in African countries -- not only by health ministers, but also by finance ministers and other officials," Berkley says. "GAVI now is in the midst of helping immunize another quarter billion people, which could save an additional four million lives by 2015," he writes, adding, "The private sector is involved, providing core business skills to tackle key obstacles to immunization in the developing world" and "compassionate in their outlook while aware of the underlying economic value of vaccines." Berkley concludes, "They understand that this is the highest return on investment they could ever make" (12/7).
This article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.