Our bright team of students from Data Sciences Department, University of California, Berkeley took on a project during FALL 2020 semester that aimed to create a business case for the nations to invest into measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR) vaccine, especially for developing countries. We mostly focused on the cost benefit of giving the rubella vaccine because it directly affects children through disability.

Currently, the entire world has an average rubella vaccination rate of 71% in 2019 (RCV1) and countries reporting MCV1 that includes MMR or MR vaccines report 85% vaccination level for the newborn babies. Several countries have allocated budgetary resources in last 10-20 years for the Rubella vaccination of newborn babies. However, majority of coutnries with large population in developing economies such as India, there is a huge women population (estimated 226 M+) under childbearing age (below 49 years), who are not vaccinated. SIA – Supplimental Immuninization needs to be the focus now for these countries to ensue there is no child born with disabilities due to Rubella virus.  According to the WHO, it is estimated that 110,000 babies are born with Congenital Rubella Syndrome (CRS) per year, which results into disability (ref2). These cases are primarily reported in Southeast Asia and Africa, and we thus focused our research and business case for countries in these regions that have available data.

However, even countries with current high vaccination rates among new born children, such as India, China, still greatly benefit from our ideas to improve vaccination and implement catchup vaccinations, which are immunization programs that focus on a target population that may have likely missed prior immunizations. For our business case, we considered the catchup population to be women who are currently in their childbearing years or soon will be. Using the available vaccination rate data and population data, we created a best case scenario to calculate the number of women each country would need to vaccinate.

Clearly, there is room for improvement, and a way we have decided to convince policymakers in these nations is to create a business case where we compare the cost of supporting all specially abled children that are born with a disability due to rubella (in terms of loss of GDP, healthcare costs, and other costs to an impacted family), assuming the same vaccination rate for the next 15 years based on the 2019 data, and the cost of implementing a catchup program as well as increasing the vaccination rate to the best case: 100%. The results are more than convincing. Within 10 years, the cost of maintaining current vaccination rates and no implementation of supplemental immunization programs will cost India more than USD $4.5 billion, whereas implementing a catchup and increasing vaccination rates to 100% would cost $3.5 billion. Within 10 years, India saves $1 billion. Within 15 years, India will instead save $3 billion. The savings will only increase.

The numbers are more shocking for low-income countries. Within just 5 years, the Central African Republic will save 40 times the money: the cost of maintaining current patterns is roughly $661 million, whereas improving vaccination and implementing supplemental immunization programs will cost $17 million.

Regardless of the country, there is a clear cost benefit of protecting citizens from preventable disabilities. Disabilities that are caused by rubella are completely preventable with an entirely vaccinated population. Our detail research findings can help sensitize policymakers to see the financial benefits of rubella vaccination. You can contact us at interns@voiceofsap.org.