Background: Looking across boarders reveals that the national immunization programs of various countries differ in their vaccination schedules and decisions regarding the implementation and funding of new vaccines. The aim of this review is to identify decision aids and crucial criteria for a rational decision-making process on vaccine introduction and to develop a theoretical framework for decision-making based on available literature.
Methods: Systematic literature search supplemented by hand-search.
Results: We identified five published decision aids for vaccine introduction and program planning in industrialized countries. Their comparison revealed an overall similarity with some differences in the approach as well as criteria. Burden of disease and vaccine characteristics play a key role in all decision aids, but authors vary in their views on the significance of cost-effectiveness analyses. Other relevant factors that should be considered before vaccine introduction are discussed to highly differing extents. These factors include the immunization program itself as well as its conformity with other programs, its feasibility, acceptability, and equity, as well as ethical, legal and political considerations. Assuming that the most comprehensive framework possible will not provide a feasible tool for decision-makers, we suggest a stepwise procedure.
Conclusions: Though even the best rational approach and most comprehensive evaluation is limited by remaining uncertainties, frameworks provide at least a structured approach to evaluate the various aspects of vaccine implementation decision-making. This process is essential in making consistently sound decisions and will facilitate the public's confidence in the decision and its realization.