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Optimal health and economic impact of non-pharmaceutical intervention measures prior and post vaccination in England: a mathematical modelling study

By Michael J Tildesley, Anna Vassall, Steven Riley, Mark Jit, Frank Sandmann, Edward M Hill, Robin Thompson, Benjamin Atkins, John Edmunds, Louise M Dyson, Matt J Keeling

Posted 25 Apr 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.22.21255949

Background Even with good progress on vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 infections in the UK may continue to impose a high burden of disease and therefore pose substantial challenges for health policy decision makers. Stringent government-mandated physical distancing measures (lockdown) have been demonstrated to be epidemiologically effective, but can have both positive and negative economic consequences. The duration and frequency of any intervention policy could, in theory, could be optimised to maximise economic benefits while achieving substantial reductions in disease. Methods Here we use a pre-existing SARS-CoV-2 transmission model to assess the health and economic implications of different strengths of control through time in order to identify optimal approaches to non-pharmaceutical intervention stringency in the UK, considering the role of vaccination in reducing the need for future physical distancing measures. The model is calibrated to the COVID-19 epidemic in England and we carry out retrospective analysis of the optimal timing of precautionary breaks in 2020 and the optimal relaxation policy from the January 2021 lockdown, considering the willingness to pay for health improvement. Results We find that the precise timing and intensity of interventions is highly dependent upon the objective of control. As intervention measures are relaxed, we predict a resurgence in cases, but the optimal intervention policy can be established dependent upon the willingness to pay (WTP) per QALY loss avoided. Our results show that establishing an optimal level of control can result in a reduction in net monetary loss of billions of pounds, dependent upon the precise WTP value. Conclusions It is vital, as the UK emerges from lockdown, but continues to face an on-going pandemic, to accurately establish the overall health and economic costs when making policy decisions. We demonstrate how some of these can be quantified, employing mechanistic infectious disease transmission models to establish optimal levels of control for the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

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