(CN) – Vaccines could save as many as 36 million lives and avert roughly 24 million cases of medical impoverishment in 41 low- and middle-income nations by 2030, a new study finds.
The report, published Monday in the journal Health Affairs, examines the potential impact of immunization programs in nations eligible for support from Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
The poorest 20 percent of people within these eligible countries would account for more than a quarter of deaths prevented by vaccination, according to the study.
“Our analysis indicated that benefits across these vaccines would accrue predominantly in the lowest income quantiles,” the report states.
Led by Angela Chang, a doctoral candidate at Harvard University, a team of researchers evaluated the potential impact of immunization in these low- and middle-income nations by estimating the distribution of averted deaths and simulating monthly household earnings for each income group.
The scientists looked at vaccines that prevent 10 diseases including yellow fever, measles, hepatitis B and Japanese encephalitis.
Hepatitis B vaccines would have the greatest impact in terms of averting poverty, helping an estimated 14 million people avoid medical impoverishment. Sudden health care expenses impoverish roughly 150 million people each year.
Of the 36 million lives the team projects vaccines will save by 2030, measles vaccines account for the most at 22 million.
“The poorest quintile accounted for the largest share of deaths averted by all vaccines (23-34 percent), and the poorest two quantiles accounted for over half of the deaths averted by most vaccines,” according to the report.
The team calls for strong efforts to improve vaccine coverage rates among at-risk citizens, noting the short- and long-term health and financial benefits that immunization presents.
“Policymakers should be informed about the large health and economic distributional impact that vaccines could have, and they should view vaccination policies as potentially important channels for improving health equity,” the authors write.