Are current cost-effectiveness thresholds for low- and middle-income countries useful? Examples from the world of vaccines

Pharmacoeconomics. 2014 Jun;32(6):525-31. doi: 10.1007/s40273-014-0162-x.


The World Health Organization's CHOosing Interventions that are Cost Effective (WHO-CHOICE) thresholds for averting a disability-adjusted life-year of one to three times per capita income have been widely cited and used as a measure of cost effectiveness in evaluations of vaccination for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). These thresholds were based upon criteria set out by the WHO Commission on Macroeconomics and Health, which reflected the potential economic returns of interventions. The CHOICE project sought to evaluate a variety of health interventions at a subregional level and classify them into broad categories to help assist decision makers, but the utility of the thresholds for within-country decision making for individual interventions (given budgetary constraints) has not been adequately explored. To examine whether the 'WHO-CHOICE thresholds' reflect funding decisions, we examined the results of two recent reviews of cost-effectiveness analyses of human papillomavirus and rotavirus vaccination in LMICs, and we assessed whether the results of these studies were reflected in funding decisions for these vaccination programmes. We found that in many cases, programmes that were deemed cost effective were not subsequently implemented in the country. We consider the implications of this finding, the advantages and disadvantages of alternative methods to estimate thresholds, and how cost perspectives and the funders of healthcare may impact on these choices.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Developed Countries / economics
  • Developing Countries / economics
  • Humans
  • Mass Vaccination / economics*
  • National Health Programs / economics
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / economics
  • Papillomavirus Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Rotavirus Vaccines / economics
  • Rotavirus Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Vaccines / economics*
  • Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • World Health Organization


  • Papillomavirus Vaccines
  • Rotavirus Vaccines
  • Vaccines