Calls for a more flexible approach to vaccine funding

Governments should take a broader perspective - including quality-of-life impacts - when considering whether to fund vaccines, according to a paper from the University of New South Wales (UNSW).

A national vaccination program would help improve productivity and cut sick leave for parents, as well as protecting others in society from falling ill, while getting the maximum benefits from population vaccination programs. The call for a more holistic assessment in determining cost-effectiveness of vaccines, including factors such as parents needing to take leave because of a sick child, is made in an editorial which has just been published in the prestigious journal Lancet Infectious Diseases.

"The influenza vaccine is currently recommended for those who are 65 years and older and anyone over 50 with a chronic disease - but it could be even more cost-effective in children," said Professor Raina MacIntyre, head of the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at UNSW.

"Children shed viruses for longer and at higher doses than adults do, which is why families with young children are often plagued with illness," explained Professor MacIntyre, who is the senior author of the paper.

The central argument of the editorial is that vaccinations should have different funding criteria to drugs.

"Vaccines have features that require special consideration when assessing their cost-effectiveness," the authors wrote. "These features are related to herd immunity, quality-of-life losses in young children, parental care and work loss, time preference, uncertainty, eradication, macroeconomics, and tiered pricing."

The paper looks at a range of other vaccination programs which could be implemented in developed countries for diseases such as chickenpox, shingles and hepatitis A.

Professor MacIntyre is affiliated with the National Centre for Immunisation Research. The lead author is Dr Philippe Beutels from the University of Antwerp and the co-author is Dr Paul Scuffham from Griffith University.

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