The Cost of Avoiding Vaccines: The Flawed UNC Study

The Cost of Avoiding Vaccines: The Flawed UNC Study

A new study published in the journal Health Affairs pegged the cost to the U.S. economy of people opting not to vaccinate against vaccine-preventable diseases at $7.1 billion in 2015. The study, performed by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and funded by Merck & Co., based the figure on estimates of medical and lost productivity costs related to being sick.1 2 3 4

The research team, led by Sachiko Ozawa, PhD, associate professor at the UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy,5 studied 10 vaccines recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), including the vaccines against hepatitis A and B; herpes zoster virus; human papillomavirus (HPV); influenza; measles, mumps, and rubella (MMR); meningococcal disease; pneumococcal disease; tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis (Tdap); and chickenpox.1 3

According to the study, the most expensive disease was influenza, which cost the economy an estimated $5.8 billion.1 2 3 That figure is based largely on the CDC estimate that 42 percent of adults in the U.S. over the age of 18 received the flu vaccine during the 2015-2016 flu season, resulting in a total of 17 million cases of the flu.1 3 4

The assumption here seems to be that most, if not all, of those 17 million flu cases could have been prevented had the remaining 58 percent of adults gotten their flu shot—an extremely shaky assumption, given that even the CDC admits flu shots fail half the time.6

According to Barbara Loe Fisher, co-founder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC):

After studying influenza infections during 2012-2013 in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington and Pennsylvania, U.S. public health officials reported in 2015 that flu vaccine effectiveness was quite low: between 39 percent and 66 percent, depending upon the influenza strain.6

Fisher further notes that public health officials found that for adults over 65 years old, vaccine effectiveness was nearly zero and that vaccine effectiveness was “unexpectedly low” for the influenza A strain among older children compared to other age groups—a ”especially for those who had gotten previous annual flu shots.”

Let that sink in for a moment. Flu shots don’t work on the elderly and flu shots have an “unexpectedly” low effectiveness in older children, but particularly in those who have gotten flu shots before. That’s an awful lot of people in our society for whom the influenza vaccine is largely useless.

To top it off, Fisher points out that health officials also found that people who were more likely to report that their general health status was “excellent” were those who were unvaccinated.6

More recently, during the 2014-2015 flu season, the CDC estimated the flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective.7 Earlier this year, the CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended against using the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine called FluMist because it was deemed to fail 97 percent of the time. Only three percent effective? For all practical purposes, FluMist provides no protection, or at least “no protective benefit” that can be measured.8

So, therein lies the second problem with the UNC study—a flawed key assumption. It is a classic case of what plagues the reliability of many vaccine cost benefit studies: garbage in, garbage out.

The influenza vaccine is not the panacea that is being marketed to the public. Not even close.

The first problem, of course, is that the study was funded by Merck, creating an obvious conflict of interest. In 2015, Merck earned $5.9 billion from the sale of vaccines.9 The only company in the world that made more money off of vaccines last year was Pfizer, with a total of $6.4 billion in vaccine sales.9

Apparently, the members of the team that conducted the study said the money from Merck did not create a conflict of interest,3 but that is not exactly an unbiased opinion. Even before she joined the faculty at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, the team’s leader, Dr. Ozawa, had led a research team that had received millions of dollars from companies and foundations with a vested interest in the production and sale of vaccines, including Merck.5

Bottom line: The UNC study cannot be taken seriously because it is based on a flawed underlying assumption and principal investigators have a huge conflict of interest.


1 Ozawa S, Portnoy A, Getaneh H, Clark S, Knoll M, Bishai D, Yang HK, Patwardhan PD. Modeling The Economic Burden Of Adult Vaccine-Preventable Diseases In The United States. Health Affairs Oct. 12, 2016.
2 Johnson CY. The $5.8 billion argument for getting your flu shot. The Washington Post Oct. 13, 2016.
3 Keeffe P. People Who Don’t Get Vaccinations Cost U.S. Economy $7 Billion a Year. Healthline Oct. 24, 2016.
4 Reilly M. The Hidden Cost of Avoiding VaccinesMIT Technology Review Oct. 13, 2016.
5 Wotus M. Sachiko Ozawa Joins PACE as Associate Professor. UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy. Oct. 17, 2016.
6 Fisher BL. CDC Admits Flu Shots Fail Half the Time. Apr. 26, 2016.
7 Cáceres M. On the Question of Vaccine Effectiveness. The Vaccine Reaction Aug. 19, 2015.
8 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. ACIP votes down use of LAIV for 2016-2017 flu season. June 22, 2016.
9 TVR Staff. Study: World Vaccine Market Will Be Worth $45.1 Billion by 2022. The Vaccine Reaction June 8, 2016.

Note: This commentary provides referenced information and perspective on a topic related to vaccine science, policy, law or ethics being discussed in public forums and by U.S. lawmakers.  The websites of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) provide information and perspective of federal agencies responsible for vaccine research, development, regulation and policymaking.


24 Responses to "The Cost of Avoiding Vaccines: The Flawed UNC Study"

  1. Tim Lundeen   November 27, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    Even if the study was valid (and there is much evidence that it is not), it only looks at one side of the equation.

    If you look at the 20,000+ kids who will regress into autism following vaccination this year (a conservative number), and the $2+ million lifetime cost of care for each of them (again conservative), then the total cost for just regression into autism is $40+ billion per year.

    Then add the cost of treating all the other chronic illness that vaccines cause or aggravate: 200,000 kids diagnosed each year with seizure disorders, 100,000 kids with severe food allergies, 100s of thousands with asthma, 400,000 kids with ADD/ADHD, other brain dysfunction, and non-regressive autism cases.

    The full cost to society for our current vaccination schedule is well over $100 billion per year. Not to mention the kids who are killed.

    • Jeanne   November 28, 2016 at 8:44 am

      100% agreed!!!! They don’t care, until it happens to their child. And you know the higher elite would never give that many, (let alone what they have in them) do it to their kids.

  2. Thomas A Braun RPh   November 27, 2016 at 4:18 pm

    When will we do a study on the gross economic impact burden of having our autistic infant/child/adults cared for, for life and the associated medical costs. It’s a lot more than the 5 Billion or less in hush money in the Vaccine slush fund that has silenced Congress from taking action to reduce the impact of vaccines on the development of autism. It is a disgrace that medical research is manipulated for the benefit of vaccine manufacturers to spin the truth.

    • Nick   November 28, 2016 at 10:24 am

      A very poignant question. The answer is that it will not take place until we’ve cleaned out the corruption throughout our legislatures and courts.
      We need a complete cleansing of the government. Once we admit to ourselves that we are part of the problem by re-electing the same instruments of our demise then there will be a change.
      Americans don’t want to understand, and refuse to embrace the nature and theory of our institutions. There has been an extended effort on the part of the education system to dismantle, by misinformation, the rule of law.

  3. CATRYNA WHITE   November 27, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    So happy to see an intelligent article telling it how it is.

  4. Viyahta   November 27, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    How can you trust any study done by Merck and Co.????

  5. groldorph   November 27, 2016 at 6:53 pm

    What would one expect from vaccine pushers than to make up almost all of their data? If you start a scientific investigation with a flawed assumption (what happens when you assume? (U make an ass of you and me) When the effective rate of success with a vaccine is as low as those indicated in this study, the rational for being vaccinated is so flawed it begs to be refuted. If I were only able to do 23% of the things I am meant to do, I would find some other line of work in which to ply my skills. I frequently recommend to those with whom I interact who are pregnant, DO NOT VACCINATE your baby, there is so much to lose by vaccination and so much to gain by NOT vaccinating. Thank you for this site, it is a very valuable resource. Have a great life.

  6. JAMES REISINGER   November 27, 2016 at 6:56 pm

    AMAZING.. Always look for the source of funding for any health study. How freakin stupid does Merck think we are? I haven’t had a flu shot since 1954 and one Tetanus shot in the same period of time. I am 82 y/o and take NO Rx med’s. As a matter of fact, the only Rx I have consummed in the past 32 years have been pain med’s and one battery of penicillin. I take vit’s and herbs for supplements. I use Colloidal Silver and Manuka Honey for infections [and other known anti-microbial foods and herbs]. Have not had as much as a sniffle since I dang near died in ’84 from the one and only flu vaccine I have ever allowed into my body. I see a doctor about once a year for my free Medicare physical and PSA test. Otherwise, I stay as far away from doctors and hospitals as I can.

  7. owldog   November 27, 2016 at 7:40 pm

    Same old statistical data trick: garbage in; garbage out. Maybe that’s why Mark Twain said something like, “there’s liars, damn liars, and statisticians.”

  8. Jack Heginbotham RN   November 27, 2016 at 8:49 pm

    I have been a Registered Nurse in Ohio since 1989. I have never been vaccinated with the Flu Vaccine and have never had a symptomatic Influenza infection. Most of my RN experience was in 50,000-100,000 visit/year Emergency Rooms until 3 years ago when I was banned from working in Hospitals for refusing the annual Flu Vaccine. No doubt I was exposed thousands of times over the years to a plethora of strains, but never became ill. In fact, since I stopped smoking tobacco, I rarely even catch colds.

    That said:
    I wish that both sides would stop using “Effectiveness” statistics when discussing vaccines.
    Researchers cannot possibly speculate about vaccine effectiveness until they have a baseline to work with. To obtain the current “effectiveness”, using this system, both sides ASSume that every un-vaccinated person exposed/infected will develop symptoms

    OBVIOUSLY, in my case, my immune system is 100% effective against most strains of Influenza without vaccine contamination. Maybe I am an exception, but I don’t think so since most other experienced Nurses in Ohio never got the Flu Vaccine and never developed Flu Symptoms either. So, before people begin building lists of stats & data to prove effectiveness, the researchers need to determine the percentage of un-vaccinated people who do not become ill when exposed to the Influenza virus. That is a TRUE baseline.

    For example, if 100 UN-vaccinated are exposed to influenza and only 30 become ill: the human immune system is inherently 70% effective. That is a baseline. I chose those numbers because I read about an Influenza epidemic aboard a ship/sub with ~100+ US sailors living in tight quarters at sea. All were obviously exposed but only ~30-40 became ill. The Vaccine people claimed their vaccine was only ~60-70% effective since every sailor had been vaccinated. I suggest way less sailors would have become ill if none had been vaccinated. I strongly suspect that repeatedly “Crying Wolf” to our immune system can’t be healthy. I suspect there are no studies on this False Flag theory because it is likely truth and the only ones who can afford that kind of research are those selling the vaccines….

    Polio Studies are the only ones I am familiar with that provide the above type of baseline data to work with. These older Studies showed that between 80-95% of those infected with Polio, NEVER developed symptoms and only ~1-2% of the infected became deathly ill. FYI, chlorinating public swimming pools in the early 1960s ended the Summer Polio Epidemics. All anti-vaxx activists should research this occult(AKA Hidden) knowledge that pool chlorination rather than vaccines ended the polio epidemics. It is the argument I use to shut up ignorant pro-vaxx people who have the nerve to tell me that “Vaccines are effective because they ended the Polio Epidemic”.

  9. Fred Blum   November 27, 2016 at 9:23 pm

    There’s also the question of how many of those 17 million documented flu cases were among the 42% that were vaccinated. I suspect it was A LOT.

  10. Joe Macias   November 27, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    It is hard for me to understand how educated people go along with these studies that are full of numbers, dollars and statistics that always seem to prove the opposite. For example in the abstract it is stated that unvaccinated individuals are responsible for almost 80 percent, or $7.1 billion, of the financial burden. In a country with a population of 200 million adults, at least half unvaccinated, say 100 million, that financial burden amounts to $71 per individual. While the other 20% of the financial burden is attributable to the other 100 million vaccinated. Meaning that being vaccinated only lowers one’s risk, and does not guarantee immunity. Also no mention is made of the cost of fully vaccinating the other 100 million adults, when with doctor visits factored in it surely must be easily 10 times that amount. Imagine spending $700 billion to save $70 billion?

  11. Nicole F.   November 28, 2016 at 12:04 am

    I’d love to know the cost of all the neurological issues plaguing our children costs. In addition what about the rise in allergies(Epipens?). The fact this study funded by Merck shows it is not unbiased. They should be embarrassed to try to pass this on as valid statistics.

  12. Nicole F.   November 28, 2016 at 12:05 am

    Exactly right Tim!

  13. Real Freedom Warrior   November 28, 2016 at 2:36 am

    A study “funded by Merck”?
    First I stopped reading because that info was all I needed. When big Pharma themselves fund studies…the results might be a bit biased…aren’t the?

    By the way: Here in Germany we already know that people without vaccines are the fitter ones. Many studies document that.

    So what do you do in the US to get your freedom back? I mean mandatory vaccines doesn’t mean real freedom to me.

    Is there any way in the us at all to avoid any vaccine or even all?

    • Patty   November 29, 2016 at 9:25 pm

      Real Freedom Warrior… depending on the state, there are exemptions. All have medical exemptions that are almost impossible to get. Some have religious exemptions an some have philosophical. If the masses don’t WAKE UP we will end up with mandatory vaccines for everyone. So many are completely brainwashed and I find the worst are those that have degrees in science! ALL of the research is done by the pHARMaceutical industry…the are no independent third party studies! There are no double blind placebo based studies, there are no long term safety studies, there are no safety studies on multiple vaccines given at the same time and there are no studies comparing the health of the vaccinated to the unvaccinated. The pHARMaceutical industry has a revolving door with the CDC and the FDA and top it all off, the pHARMaceutical companies enjoy complete protection from litigation for injuries and deaths caused by their vaccines!The country is going to hell in a hand basket while the masses are sleepwalking completely oblivious to what is going on!

  14. Robert K. Watts   November 28, 2016 at 6:30 am

    Had the flu vaccination because it was a requirement by my employer… Well I got the flu…. I have avoided the vaccines for the last several years without any problem… This year though I had no choice. Well I got this year. Those of us affiliated with the military in one way or another are having to suffer. We have no choice…. but to sit and take it.

  15. Tammy Martino   November 28, 2016 at 8:28 am

    The study fails to include those who have natural immunity to several strains of flu, the elderly, and those with natural immunity to common childhood diseases, such as measles. It would be great to see a,study to evaluate the cost that vaccines have created by destroying natural herd immunity, along with the plethora of costs from vaccine injury and failure. A really unsuccessful attempt at a monetary evaluation. With the increase in pharmacy schools across the USA, it appears that quality of education is sorely lacking at some institutions, particularly this one.

  16. Num Guy   November 28, 2016 at 9:21 am

    Research at universities is bought and paid for by Big Pharma. How can such research be believed?

    There is plenty of anecdotal evidence that vaccines cause great harm, but the Center for Deceit and Corruption (aka CDC) will not let any studies be conducted. Big Pharma wants no studies to observe the health of the vaccinated vs the vaccinated! Big Pharma will continue to poison future generations!! Unless, we seriously start mobilizing in huge numbers.

    Let’s start by repealing the “1986 Vaccine Injury Law Information”. This law has been shielding Big Pharma for over 30 years from all lawsuits.

    Please google “Repeal Immunity for Drug Companies Against Vaccine Injuries” and sign the petition. This 1986 law must go. Otherwise, no amount of talk will make things better.
    Please take a moment to sign and please share with friends and family.

  17. Gregory Graham   November 28, 2016 at 9:52 am

    The article states “400,000 kids with ADD/ADHD, other brain dysfunction and non-regression autism cases.” According to the CDC ‘the number is over 800,000 children between the ages of 3 and 17. Most likely the number is over 1.3 million.

  18. brad   November 28, 2016 at 10:09 am

    As pointed out above – they ignore the costs of the vax induced illnesses. The dead. The Guillain Barre’ Syndrome victims. The thousands who take the vaccine and become sick anyway.
    How about that Hong Kong study – the only one i know comparing vaccinated vs unvaccinated. It dealt with the flu vaccine and shows that the vaccinated had a 5X increase in respiratory illnesses.
    The medical costs for the infants who develop rashes and hospitalizations. The increase in asthsma – are all of these things without medical costs?

    When i was young almost everyone got the mumps, chicken pox, and measles. We enjoyed some time off from school and with a deep sigh went back. Now – WE have permanent immunity while those vaccinated never can claim this. Outbreaks of diseases PRIMARILY find that the great majority of the infected were actually vaccinated in pretense of not having to worry about that exact illness anymore. OOPS – didn’t work, did it.

    But when students have to take off from college, or parents have to take off to take care of re-infected VACCINATED kids – there is no cost?

    Get real you industry prostitutes.

    Write a study to present an outcome favorable to the industry, get industry funding, call it university study – and then basically lie to the people with a badly written piece of writing.

  19. Hannah   November 28, 2016 at 10:45 am

    My older vaccinated children required far more days off from work due to illnesses ranging from constant ear infections to asthma to strep throat. And I won’t even touch the major financial strain on my income in trying to get help for my wonderful and brilliant son’s subtle neurological “something” that is preventing him from succeeding the way he should. My younger unvaccinated children hardly know the pediatrician, we’ve been in to visit so rarely, and my nebulizer (used so often for my older children) has been packed away at the top of the closet for several years now. Oh–and all at the top of the class, without all the behavior and learning issues. This “study” is not a study at all–it’s a piece of propaganda.

  20. Steven Csargo   November 28, 2016 at 2:22 pm

    My fiance’s 18 year old son has severe autism…one worker described him as the worst she has ever seen in 30 years. No speech, incontinent, under a lot of meds just to control his behavior. It is a shame to see a young adult that will never be able to function properly in life. He used to talk before his 2nd MMR shot.
    Our 2 year old daughter is Very healthy and is already learning her ABC’s, short sentences, and knows conversation body of what we say. She has had NO shots, not K or any of them. I support the American value of being informed & making your own choices about our children.
    The Truth About Cancer, Dr. Mercola, and Mike Adams have great info on vaccines also(and testimonies). Keep up the good work on educating the Public!

  21. Michelle Alexandria   December 26, 2016 at 2:50 am

    None of the drug companies make money off of healthy people


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