McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Keeping up with the Joneses spurs vaccine use

Published: March 17, 2010
Jessica Shearer
Jessica Shearer, a PhD candidate with McMaster University's Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis

A study has found that major factors influencing a nation’s adoption of a vaccine are price and whether the country’s neighbours are using the vaccine.

The study’s lead author, Jessica Shearer, a PhD candidate with McMaster University's Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis, said: "This study is the first to measure how countries' decisions to adopt new vaccines are highly influenced by their neighbours' decisions. 

"Countries seem to be engaging in an arms race to vaccinate — decisions which will save millions of lives."

The findings appeared in the March 16 edition of PLoS Medicine. Shearer led the study while a research associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The study looked at worldwide use of Haemophilus influenza Type b vaccine (Hib) to determine what factors influenced a nation’s adoption of the vaccine.

Haemophilus influenzae type b is bacteria which cause severe pneumonia, meningitis and other invasive diseases almost exclusively in children under five years of age.

For the study, the researchers analyzed data on Hib use from 147 countries from 1990 to 2007. Models were developed to account for a nation’s income and burden of the disease. According to the study, the receipt of support from the Global Alliance for Vaccine and Immunization (GAVI) sped up the time on decisions to use Hib by 63 percent. The presence of two or more neighboring countries using Hib accelerated adoption by 50 percent.

An increase in price negatively affected the time it took a country to adopt Hib vaccine, which substantiated the findings of previous studies.

"While high vaccine prices hinder adoption, the absence of long-term, stable financing policies at the global level had an even more detrimental effect," Shearer said.

"This study provides evidence that efforts like GAVI work and that Canada should continue to support the saving of children’s lives around the world."

GAVI, to which Canada has been a major donor, is at the forefront of funding new ways of raising and disbursing money for immunization in developing countries. The World Health Organization estimates more than two million people die worldwide each year from vaccine preventable diseases.

The research was funded by the Hib Initiative, which receives funding from the GAVI Alliance.

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