Sean O'Grady: Why mass immunisation is essential
Wednesday 07 October 2009
Whatever the cost to the taxpayer of immunising people against swine flu turns out be, it will almost certainly be money well spent if it helps slow the spread of the disease and minimises the gigantic damage to the economy it is likely to inflict in terms of days off sick and lost output.
It is almost anyone's guess what that cost would ultimately be, but even the most conservative estimates have put it as high as 1 per cent of the UK's national income, which equates to about £15bn, or about £500 for each member of the working population. These figures are based on what the Department of Health in the summer called a "reasonable worst case scenario" – an infection rate of 30 per cent and an average absence from work of seven working days.
More morbidly, on the best guess of the swine flu death rate, we would lose about 6,000 people permanently from the working population, representing a lifetime loss of output of perhaps £2.4bn between them.
However, that may not be the whole story. Factor in additional costs for the depressing effects on consumer confidence and spending, and on travel and tourism, and the economic carnage would be much greater – 2 or 3 per cent of GDP, or approaching £50bn. That would be enough to push the economy back into the depths of recession, causing some high-profile corporate casualties.
Against that, some workers will do the work of others, and spending on health care and medicines would rise to partly compensate for these effects, but not by much.
It is fair to point out that other supposed health "shocks" to the economy such as avian flu, Sars, terrorism and foot and mouth were much exaggerated. But the economic message remains clear: the risks to the economy of swine flu are easily severe enough to justify a mass immunisation programme now.
- 1 Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
- 2 What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
- 3 The remarkable archaeological underwater discovery that could open up a new chapter in the study of European and British prehistory
- 4 'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
- 5 Madonna claims jokes about her age tantamount to racism: 'No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black'
Husband and wife die holding hands within hours of each other after 67 years of marriage
Mohammed Emwazi: Nine things we know about Isis militant 'Jihadi John'
What color is The Dress, white and gold or blue and black? An eyewitness gives a definitive answer
'Jihadi John': Mohammed Emwazi – from British computer programmer to Isis executioner
Madonna claims jokes about her age tantamount to racism: 'No one would dare to say a degrading remark about being black'
Oscars 2015: Birdman beats Boyhood as Eddie Redmayne and Patricia Arquette win big - as it happened
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
Half of Ukip voters say they are prejudiced against people of other races
'Cash for access' scandal: Sir Malcolm Rifkind says 'unrealistic' for MPs to live on £67,000 salary
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...
£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...
£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...