Vaccines are considered by many to be one of the best buys for public health in developing nations because they can protect productive lives and cut the costs of health care and treatment.
Millions of children's lives and billions of dollars could be saved if vaccines were more widely available in 72 of the world's poorest countries, according to a series of studies published on Thursday.
In studies in the Health Affairs and The Lancet journals, public health experts and scientists projected that if 90 percent of children in those countries were immunized, more than $151 billion in treatment costs and lost productivity could be saved in 10 years, giving economic benefits of $231 billion.
Some 6.4 million lives could also be saved, they found.
The donor-funded Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI) and the Results for Development Institute found that poor nations are hard-pressed to pay for vaccine programs without help from outside donors. "Without major assistance from international donors, the poorest countries will be hard-pressed to pay the costs to reach all of their children with life-saving vaccines," said Helen Saxenian of the Results for Development Institute in Washington.
According to the World Health Organization, eradicating smallpox at a one-time cost of about $100 million has saved the world some $1.35 billion a year since it was achieved in 1979.