Background: The annual mortality rate of human rabies in rural Africa is 3.6 deaths per 100 000 persons. Rabies can be prevented with prompt postexposure prophylaxis, but this is costly and often inaccessible in rural Africa. Because 99% of human exposures occur through rabid dogs, canine vaccination also prevents transmission of rabies to humans.
Objective: To evaluate the cost-effectiveness of rabies control through annual canine vaccination campaigns in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Design: We model transmission dynamics in dogs and wildlife and assess empirical uncertainty in the biological variables to make probability-based evaluations of cost-effectiveness.
Data sources: Epidemiologic variables from a contact-tracing study and literature and cost data from ongoing vaccination campaigns.
Target population: Two districts of rural Tanzania: Ngorongoro and Serengeti.
Time horizon: 10 years.
Perspective: Health policymaker.
Intervention: Vaccination coverage ranging from 0% to 95% in increments of 5%.
Outcome measures: Life-years for health outcomes and 2010 U.S. dollars for economic outcomes.
Results of base-case analysis: Annual canine vaccination campaigns were very cost-effective in both districts compared with no canine vaccination. In Serengeti, annual campaigns with as much as 70% coverage were cost-saving.
Results of sensitivity analysis: Across a wide range of variable assumptions and levels of societal willingness to pay for life-years, the optimal vaccination coverage for Serengeti was 70%. In Ngorongoro, although optimal coverage depended on willingness to pay, vaccination campaigns were always cost-effective and lifesaving and therefore preferred.
Limitation: Canine vaccination was very cost-effective in both districts, but there was greater uncertainty about the optimal coverage in Ngorongoro.
Conclusion: Annual canine rabies vaccination campaigns conferred extraordinary value and dramatically reduced the health burden of rabies.
Primary funding source: National Institutes of Health.