Background: Rotavirus infection is responsible for about 500,000 deaths annually, and the disease burden is disproportionately borne by children in low-income countries. Recently the World Health Organization (WHO) has released a global recommendation that all countries include infant rotavirus vaccination in their national immunization programs. Our objective was to provide information on the expected health, economic and financial consequences of rotavirus vaccines in the 72 GAVI support-eligible countries.
Methods: We synthesized population-level data from various sources (primarily from global-level databases) for the 72 countries eligible for the support by the GAVI Alliance (GAVI-eligible countries) in order to estimate the health and economic impact associated with rotavirus vaccination programs. The primary outcome measure was incremental cost (in 2005 international dollars [I$]) per disability-adjusted life year (DALY) averted. We also projected the expected reduction in rotavirus disease burden and financial resources required associated with a variety of scale-up scenarios.
Results: Under the base-case assumptions (70% coverage), vaccinating one single birth cohort would prevent about 55% of rotavirus associated deaths in the 72 GAVI-eligible countries. Assuming I$25 per vaccinated child (approximately $5 per dose), the number of countries with the incremental cost per DALY averted less than I$200 was 47. Using the WHO's cost-effectiveness threshold based on per capita GDP, the vaccines were considered cost-effective in 68 of the 72 countries (approximately 94%). A 10-year routine rotavirus vaccination would prevent 0.9-2.8 million rotavirus associated deaths among children under age 5 in the poorest parts of the world, depending on vaccine scale-up scenarios. Over the same intervention period, rotavirus vaccination programs would also prevent 4.5-13.3 million estimated cases of hospitalization and 41-107 million cases of outpatient clinic visits in the same population.
Conclusions: Our findings suggest that rotavirus vaccination would be considered a worthwhile investment for improving general development as well as childhood health level in most low-income countries, with a favorable cost-effectiveness profile even under a vaccine price ($1.5-$5.0 per dose) higher than those of traditional childhood vaccines.