Campaign prevented an estimated 900,000 cases of flu, 105,080 visits to doctors, 28,721 emergency visits, 427 hospitalizations, 52 deaths and saved $20 million.
Toronto (21 July 2010) - Nearly one million cases of H1N1 influenza and 52 deaths caused by human swine flu were prevented in Ontario alone by mass immunization, according to new research at the University of Toronto.
The study, reported in the journal Vaccine, is believed to be the first to investigate the cost-effectiveness of the largest immunization program in the country's history.
Overall, researchers estimated that the H1N1 flu shots prevented 420 hospitalizations, 28,000 visits to hospital emergency departments and 100,000 visits to a doctors' offices in Ontario, even though the vaccines were only rolled out in late October of last year - nine weeks into the fall wave.
"The vaccine was implemented quite late - at the height of the pandemic - and it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to take effect. Even then we could save enough patients to make it worthwhile," researcher Beate Sander, a doctoral student and health economist, told Postmedia News.
As of April, 428 H1N1 deaths had been reported in Canada, 128 of them in Ontario, and nearly 9,000 hospitalizations. A total of 1,843 of the hospitalizations occurred in Ontario.
The fall wave of the first flu pandemic in 41 years began in the first week of September, peaked in early November and tapered off by late January.
Ontario's $180-million mass immunization program began Oct. 26 - two weeks before the peak. More than one-third (37%) of the population had been vaccinated 16 weeks into the outbreak, and almost half (45%) by the end of the outbreak, according to data available at the time of the study.
"When the program was rolled out, there was so much negative press about how expensive it is, what a waste of money it is," Sander said. "We wanted to look at it in a more objective way."
The researchers predicted that without a mass flu vaccine program, 4.1 million cases of flu would have occurred in Ontario.
Researchers estimated the campaign prevented about 900,000 cases of flu, 105,080 visits to doctors, 28,721 emergency visits, 427 hospitalizations and 52 deaths, and saved an estimated $20 million in health costs.
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