SO: Yeah, I think it is a growing problem because people really don’t understand the amount, the scale of the economic costs that we’re incurring. These are preventable diseases, these are diseases that we can actually avoid if we were to be vaccinated. And people aren’t necessarily putting a value in that prevention and instead actually incurring these costs.
DTH: Do you think parents not getting their children vaccinated has to do with the study that showed the (Measles, Mumps and Rubella) vaccine caused autism in children, even though it was proven false?
SO: The MMR vaccine really being linked to Autism was debunked many, many times. The author who came up with the medicine paper has been de-licensed and he can no longer practice medicine. It’s really done a terrible disservice to, I think, public health in general because people are very worried and kind of fearful ... But the benefit of vaccination really is that you have this thing call herd immunity, so if you vaccinate people then those who are not vaccinated can also benefit from the protection that they receive.
DTH: How does this affect health care in the U.S.?
SO: It affects health care insomuch that we’re spending both time and effort in fighting diseases that we can actually prevent. So, people are actually spending money for medications, for in-patient care, and people actually have to leave the workplace for sick leave in order to actually seek care. So, those are the kinds of costs that could actually be saved to individuals, to families as well to the actual health care system.
DTH: How do you think a growing number of children and adults not getting vaccinated will affect the U.S. in the future?
SO: This actually kind of accumulates, so if more people continue not to get vaccinated, it will continue to incur more costs. As our population actually gets older, there’s going to be more and more people who are going to need more care. Care becomes more expensive as you get older — if more adults currently can start to value more in vaccinations, then we may be able to prevent more costs into the future.
CLARIFICATION: A previous version was unclear about the costs of vaccine-preventable diseases. These diseases cost the U.S. $9 billion, but the cost of not vaccinating is $7 billion. The difference — $2 billion — is an unavoidable cost.