Deciding which vaccines and treatments should be paid for by the health service and made freely available to the public is extremely complex.
Before any health care intervention can be introduced, there has to be evidence that it is cost-effective.
For vaccines, this involves counting the net cost of introducing a vaccine, versus the health benefits gained. But measuring such benefits is controversial, partly because assumptions are made about public preferences. For example, preventing rare, but serious childhood illnesses such as meningitis, is not specifically prioritised over preventing very common, but mild illnesses.
We do not currently know whether this is a true reflection of what the public in the UK really think.
About the project
Researchers at the University of Bristol aim to discover whether or not people value benefits from different childhood vaccines differently, and if so understand how vaccine benefits are prioritised. In the future, this could ensure that policy decisions on vaccines consider real life public preferences.
The researchers have already interviewed members of the public to find out what factors are considered to be important when comparing health benefits from different vaccines.
These factors (e.g. age and severity of illness) are now being used to develop a questionnaire to survey a representative sample of the UK population. The questionnaire will ask the public to make lots of decisions about how they would prioritise vaccine with different benefits.
Once questionnaire results have been collected, they will be analysed to see what factors have the greatest influence on people’s priorities.
Initial findings suggest that individuals may obtain ‘peace of mind’ benefits from vaccination. The research team are exploring these benefits further in an extension of this study- find out more by clicking here.
What will this achieve?
In the future, this research could ensure that vaccines are prioritised as the public want them to be - potentially shaping the future of vaccine availability.