Background: One reason that recommended childhood immunizations due at child health visits are deferred is to avoid the pain and emotional distress associated with the increasing number of injections required. This deferral leads to additional visits and costs and reduced immunoprotection against vaccine-preventable illnesses. To assess the economic value of combination vaccines that address this problem, we surveyed parents to determine the amount they would be willing to pay to avoid the pain and emotional distress experienced by their infants from injections.
Methods: A self-administered questionnaire was completed within 24 h of the vaccinations by 294 parents of children ages 11/2 to 7 months receiving vaccine injections at 26 outpatient child health centers. The willingness-to-pay (WTP) method was used to estimate the intangible cost of the pain and emotional distress of the 1 to 4 injections their child had received. Parents were asked how much of their own money they would have paid to avoid these injections, without any compromise in the safety and efficacy of the vaccinations.
Results: Wide variations in WTP amounts were observed, ranging from median values of $10 to $25 and average values of $57.06 to $79.28 to avoid the pain and emotional distress associated with eliminating all injections at visits in which one to four injections were administered. Parents placed greater value on reductions that avoided all injections than on reductions that avoided only some injections. Overall the median cost per injection avoided was $8.14, and the mean was $30.28.
Conclusions: Parents have strong preferences for limiting vaccine injections. The economic cost of the pain and distress associated with such injections, reflected in the amounts they report they would be willing to pay to avoid them, represents a substantial component of the cost of disease control through immunization.