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Vaccinate the economy against disease
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President Obama called for more funding to go toward scientific research and he specifically mentioned vaccines. It has been reported that apart from health concerns, there are massive economic consequences from those who choose not to vaccinate. - photo by Matthew Jelalian
President Obama called on Congress in his State of the Union address to give more money to programs performing scientific research "so we can unleash the next great American discovery whether its vaccines that stay ahead of drug-resistant bacteria, or paper-thin material thats stronger than steel, The Washington Post reported.

The Post did correct President Obama that revenue was allocated to National Institutes of Health for research for an Ebola vaccine. But why would the government want to put more funding into vaccine research?

Part of the reason would be health-related, but the other part might deal with the economic cost of an ineffective flu shot.

What's the economic toll of all those hours workers are spending in bed? asked The Atlantic. It's tough to calculate, but two often-quoted numbers point to significant losses: One 2007 study estimated that the flu costs approximately $7 billion in lost productivity, with 111 million workdays lost.

The Atlantic reported that slight variations in vaccine effectiveness could alter this number quite significantly.

One cost-benefit analysis concluded that vaccination is cost saving when the vaccine efficacy is high, but when a flu vaccine is a poor match to the prevailing flu viruses of the season, it is not cost saving due to work absenteeism, the article read. This study defined a poor match as a vaccine that reduces flu risk by 35 percent; this year's vaccine is estimated to reduce risk by even less 23 percent.

National Public Radio reported that a recent study in the journal Pediatrics has revealed that those who choose not to vaccinate tend to live in clustered areas within the United States.

If these parents were distributed randomly, their decisions would be less likely to harm others, especially babies too young for vaccination, NPR reported. But parents who use personal belief exemptions to avoid school vaccination requirements often live in the same communities, studies have found.

Even Jon Stewart and Samantha Bee produced a bit for The Daily Show on the topic, according to Business Insider, mocking white, educated liberals who deny the evidence-based science behind vaccinations.

Vaccination problems in developing countries become even more difficult when prices of the medication are taken into consideration.

The price to fully vaccinate a child is 68 times more expensive than it was just over a decade ago, mainly because a handful of big pharmaceutical companies are overcharging donors and developing countries for vaccines that already earn them billions of dollars in wealthy countries, said Mdecins Sans Frontires Director of Policy and Analysis Rohit Malpani, according to the Doctors Without Borders website.

The BBC reported on a recent statement by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer that said the prices are reflective of manufacturing costs.

It takes more than two years to create one batch of Prevnar 13 (vaccine for pneumonia and other infections), encompassing some 500 separate quality control tests prior to product release and distribution, multiple facilities and hundreds of trained professionals, Pfizer reportedly said.

BBC also reported that Pfizer said in their statement that they're providing vaccines at a deeply discounted price.