Economic Value of Vaccines to Address the COVID-19 Pandemic in Hong Kong: A Cost-Effectiveness Analysis

Vaccines (Basel). 2022 Mar 23;10(4):495. doi: 10.3390/vaccines10040495.


Objective The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has imposed significant costs on economies. Safe and effective vaccines are a key tool to control the pandemic; however, vaccination programs can be costly. Are the benefits they bestow worth the costs they incur? The relative value of COVID-19 vaccines has not been widely assessed. In this study, a cost-effectiveness analysis was performed to provide evidence of the economic value of vaccines in Hong Kong. Method We developed a Markov model of COVID-19 infections using a susceptible-infected-recovered structure over a 1-year time horizon from a Hong Kong healthcare sector perspective to measure resource utilization, economic burden, and disease outcomes. The model consisted of two arms: do nothing and implement a vaccination program. We assessed effectiveness using units of quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) to measure the incremental cost-effectiveness at a HKD 1,000,000/QALY threshold. Results The vaccination program, which has reached approximately 72% of the population of Hong Kong with two vaccine doses, was found to have a cost of HKD 22,339,700 per QALY gained from February 2021 to February 2022. At a willingness-to-pay threshold, the vaccination program was not cost-effective in the context of the low prevalence of COVID-19 cases before the Omicron wave. However, the cost-effectiveness of a COVID-19 vaccine is sensitive to the infection rate. Hong Kong is now experiencing the fifth wave of the Omicron. It is estimated that the ICER of the vaccination program from February 2022 to February 2023 was HKD 310,094. The vaccination program in Hong Kong was cost-effective in the context of the Omicron. Conclusions Vaccination programs incur a large economic burden, and we therefore need to acknowledge their limitations in the short term. This will help relevant departments implement vaccination programs. From a longer-term perspective, the vaccination program will show great cost-effectiveness once infection rates are high in a regional outbreak. Compared with other age groups, it is suggested that the elderly population should be prioritized to improve the vaccine coverage rate.

Keywords: Hong Kong; cost-effectiveness; economic analysis; vaccine.