Investigating how people value health benefits from childhood vaccination

Informing vaccine policy in the future

Scientific version
  • Researchers:
    Dr Caroline Trotter, Dr Fran Carroll, Dr Hannah Christensen, Dr Hareth Al-Janabi
  • Start Date:
    14 May 2015
  • Category:
    Prevention
  • Location:
    Bristol University, Bristol, UK, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
Investigating how people value health benefits from childhood vaccination

What is this project about?

This research aims to find out whether people value the benefits from different childhood vaccines equally, and if they do not, to work out health ‘weights’ which could be used by policy makers in prioritising treatments or prevention strategies.

The project has 3 stages:

  1. Interviews with the general public to find out what factors are important when comparing health benefits from different treatments/vaccines (e.g. age, type of disease, severity, societal impacts). These will then be used to develop and pilot a questionnaire.
  2. Using the questionnaire to survey a representative sample of the UK general population
  3. Results will undergo statistical analyses to work out the ‘weights’ given to each factor

Why is this important

When policy makers need to make decisions about healthcare and which treatments and vaccinations will be made available to the public, they use cost-effectiveness analyses as part of the process.

Cost-effectiveness analyses compare the cost of doing something (such as vaccinating all children routinely against a particular disease in the UK) with how much benefit you get from doing it (such as health gains through preventing disease). In healthcare, benefit is often measured using ‘QALYs’ or quality adjusted life years, which is a summary measure combining how long people live but also what their quality of life is. At the moment in cost-effectiveness analyses these QALYs are assumed to be valued equally, so a QALY gained by a child has the same value as a QALY gained by an older person. This also means that one QALY gained by one child is the same as ten children gaining 10% of a QALY. This matters because if people would actually rather protect children against rare, but very serious diseases compared to very common, mild ones then this should be taken into account in the decision making and it may mean policy makers prioritise different vaccines. Whether QALYs should be weighted is often discussed in policy debates about introducing vaccines, particularly so in the recent debates over the use of Bexsero® against MenB meningococcal disease. However, it is not currently done, in part due to lack of evidence of how QALYs should be weighted.

Potential outcomes

In the short term this research will allow us to see whether people value the benefits from different childhood vaccines equally, and if they do not, to calculate ‘weights’ to represent people’s preferences. Longer term, we will seek to include these weights and preferences into analyses used by decision makers so that vaccines are prioritised as the public want them to be.