Vaccinations: Developing Countries — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 2:30 pm on 13th June 2018.

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Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire 2:30 pm, 13th June 2018

My hon. Friend makes an excellent point and I absolutely agree with him. That is exactly the kind of research and evidence that the Department and other bodies need to provide as those who believe in and support our overseas aid spending seek to make and restate the case for it over and over again. It is a powerful message with which to challenge sceptics and cynics.

In 2016, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examined the projected return on investment in vaccinations between 2011 and 2020 in 94 low and middle-income countries. Looking only at the direct costs associated with illness, such as treatment and lost productivity, it found that the return for every £1 spent on vaccines was £16. When it expanded its analysis to look at the broader economic impact of illness, it found that the return was around £44 for every £1 spent. Such studies point to investment in vaccinations being an important means of improving health equity and reducing poverty, and to vaccinations providing value for money.

There is another aspect to this: investment in vaccinations in the poorest countries is also an investment in our own national security and resilience. I am always wary of the self-interest argument when it comes to defending overseas aid, and I think people generally see through those arguments, but polling evidence indicates that the general public understand that killer diseases such as Ebola do not respect borders and shows greater support for aid that focuses resources on tackling those diseases.

I will wrap up in a few moments, but I will close with several recommendations and observations, which the Minister will perhaps respond to today or follow up in writing at a later date. What efforts is Britain making, through its international partnerships and on its own, to improve vaccine coverage rates among the very poorest, ensuring that aid is spent on those who need it most and for whom it has the biggest benefit?

Distributional impacts should be taken into account when decisions are made about introducing or expanding vaccination programmes, and programmes accruing greater benefits to the poor should be prioritised over vaccines with less equity impact. Hard-to-reach families and people in isolated areas should be priority targets, as investment among those people significantly reduces the likelihood of disease outbreaks, which are more costly in lives and the money needed to respond.

Despite significant progress since 2000, today, nearly one infant in 10—that is, around 30 million children—does not receive any vaccinations, and more than 1.5 million children under the age of five die from vaccine-preventable diseases every year. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccines immunise against the most common cause of pneumonia, but they remain inaccessible to millions largely due to high prices, thus leaving behind the poorest and most marginalised children.