How much does the measles really cost taxpayers?

The CDC reported on Monday that the measles count is currently up to 121 cases in 17 states. Disneyland exposure accounts for 85 percent of those cases. And of course, the main topic of discussion around the issue has been about preventing further spread and battling the anti-vaxx agenda. But how much do these cases really cost taxpayers?

It’s not cheap when you consider the cost of the MMR vaccine, which prevents measles in 95 percent of people who get one dose and 99 percent in those who get both. The vaccine can range from $1.99 for a pediatric dose, $3.70 for an adult, up to $5.61 a dose in the private sector. This is not necessarily consumer cost, though, because the Affordable Care Act requires coverage for the MMR vaccine.

“These outbreaks have economic costs. They are disruptive,” Gregory Poland, head of the Mayo Clinic’s Vaccine Research Group, told Forbes. “The smaller ones have cost a couple hundred dollars in public resources, and one cost nearly a million dollars. It’s on the lesser side – health is more important – but it consumes public health resources that could be applied to the other pressing problems we face.”

Forbes spelled out what the costs and numbers looked like just a few years ago:

In 2011, the cost of 107 cases spread across 16 outbreaks cost local and state health departments an estimated $2.7 million to $5.3 million. Because measles is so contagious, infecting 90 percent of susceptible individuals and remaining airborne up to two hours after an infectious person has left the area, the number of contacts a single case can generate grows exponentially once an outbreak begins. The cases in 2011 involved contacting somewhere between 8,900 and 17,450 individuals, which required 42,000 to 83,000 personnel hours.

Another cost factor to consider is what the families must not only pay in hospital bills when someone gets infected, but what kind of losses incur from needing to take time off work (more likely when a parent is caring for an infected child).

“While this cost can be absorbed by many employees through the use of sick days, employees with lower incomes are the least likely to have sick leave,” said health economist Adam Powell, president of Payer+Provider Syndicate Healthcare Consulting. “The Economic Policy Institute reported that the median wage for people without sick days is $10 per hour. Assuming the person works five days a week, missing a week of work would cause a loss of $400. If the absence extended to eight days of work and two days of weekend as a result of a ten day illness, the loss would be $640.”

When it comes down to it, vaccinations are inexpensive and save not only lives but taxpayer money. Of course, money isn’t really the biggest thing to be concerned about when it comes to measles, and it’s not like the main anti-vaxxer argument is that they are trying to save money. But this just adds to the numerous reasons why vaccinations are essential and absolutely the responsible way to go.


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