Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals

Health economics research


What is health economics?

Health economics is concerned with the connection between health and the resources needed to promote it. Resources here involve not just money, but also people, materials and time, which could have been used in other ways. The underlying issue is that while the needs may be indefinite – for health, food, shelter, etc. – the resources to satisfy them are finite.

Choices, therefore, have to be made about which needs are most important and how to manage the limited resources.

Health economics attempts to illuminate these choices. Hence, economists are involved in setting overall allocations to the health sector and in determining ways of judging the success of health policies.

Why is health economics important for immunization?

New and improved vaccines against infectious diseases of major public health importance, such as pneumococcal, rotavirus and human papillomavirus, are increasingly available to national immunization programmes.

Public health decision-makers will need to make choices among these vaccines, and between vaccination and other preventive interventions. Since the new vaccines are more expensive than the traditional EPI vaccines, decision-makers need, among other things, information on their relative cost-effectiveness to assess their value for money.

This is especially important if countries need to bear the full cost of their vaccination programmes.

How does IVR contribute to health economics?

The Initiative for Vaccine Research (IVR) coordinates the implementation of a health economics research programme through a network of senior health economists with expertise in vaccine-preventable diseases, under the guidance of the Immunization and Vaccines related Implementation Research (IVIR) Advisory Committee.

Specifically, IVR develops for policy-makers, particularly in low- and middle-income countries, a range of guidelines and manuals, as well as innovative frameworks and instruments, to assess the economic impact of vaccines and immunization programmes. In addition, IVR is involved in special studies such as the Oral Cholera Vaccine Study in Zanzibar. The IVIR reviews and makes recommendations on the use of the guidance and health economic tools promoted by IVR, a summary of which is presented below.