Study calls for influenza vaccinations for all Americans

A study conducted by OptumInsight Life Sciences and Chancellor Health Economics, Ltd., recommends that all Americans receive vaccinations against influenza to dramatically reduce healthcare costs and seasonal influenza infections.

According to the study, influenza illness is responsible for direct medical costs close to $10 billion per year in the United States and over 600,000 life-years lost. The study found that a universal vaccination policy might reduce influenza-related illnesses by two million cases, saving $3 billion in associated healthcare and productivity costs, reports.

In addition, the vaccination policy could save 34,000 quality-adjusted life years, a unit of measure combining life years gained as a result of health interventions/health care programs with a judgment about the quality of these life years.

“To our knowledge, this is the first economic evaluation that considers application of universal influenza vaccination in the United States,” Karen M. Clements, the lead author of the study and project manager for OptumInsight Life Sciences, said, according to “Our analysis shows that there are significant clinical and economic benefits associated with a universal vaccination program, which supports the CDC’s recent recommendation to expand influenza vaccination.”

The study stratified the U.S. population by age, estimated likelihood of contracting influenza-like illness and complications, healthcare utilization and survival rates. The authors further estimated lifetime costs in 2008 U.S. dollars and QALYs lost over the course of the individual’s lifetime to determine incremental cost-effectiveness ratios.

“While there was no precedent for universal vaccination against influenza in the United States, our study cites Ontario as the example,” David Thompson, the senior vice president of health economics and strategic consulting for OptumInsight Life Sciences, said, according to “The result of that implementation was decreased flu-related mortality and reduced reliance on health care resources, compared with other provinces that had not adopted universal vaccination.”

Researchers found that a universal vaccination program would cost $111 billion, while a targeted vaccination program including additional people contracting influenza-related illnesses due to a lack of vaccination yielded a $114 billion cost. The researchers developed five alternative scenarios dealing with eventualities like a weak vaccine and other methods of uncertainty and still found that cost savings would occur in the universal vaccination scenario.

The study was funded by GlaxoSmithKline.