Childhood vaccines are the proverbial ounce of prevention. They save innumerable lives, prevent untold suffering, and reduce medical costs by the best of all possible means -- avoiding sickness. Yet, despite recent gains, millions of children in the United States and overseas are not receiving currently available vaccines. And, for want of concerted effort, new vaccines within scientific reach are not being developed.
The lost promise of vaccines is an epic case of market failure. Childhood immunizations are estimated to save about $10 for every $1 expended. But while society gets a high return from vaccines, the returns to vaccine makers and distributors are limited and uncertain.