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Optimising health and economic impacts of COVID-19 vaccine prioritisation strategies in the WHO European Region

By Yang Liu, Frank G Sandmann, Rosanna C Barnard, Carl A.B. Pearson, LSHTM CMMID COVID-19 Working Group, Roberta Pastore, Richard Pebody, Stefan Flasche, Mark Jit

Posted 14 Jul 2021
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.09.21260272

Background: Countries in the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region differ in terms of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out speed. We evaluated the health and economic impact of different age-based vaccine prioritisation strategies across this demographically and socio-economically diverse region. Methods: We fitted country-specific age-stratified compartmental transmission models to reported COVID-19 mortality in the WHO European Region to inform the immunity level before vaccine roll-out. Building upon broad recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunisation (SAGE), we examined four strategies that prioritise: all adults (V+), younger (20-59 year-olds) followed by older adults (60+) (V20), older followed by younger adults (V60), and the oldest adults (75+) (V75) followed by incremental expansion to successively younger five-year age groups. We explored four roll-out scenarios based on projections or recent observations (R1-4) - the slowest scenario (R1) covers 30% of the total population by December 2022 and the fastest (R4) 80% by December 2021. Five decision-making metrics were summarised over 2021-22: mortality, morbidity, and losses in comorbidity-adjusted life expectancy (cLE), comorbidity- and quality-adjusted life years (cQALY), and the value of human capital (HC). Six sets of infection-blocking and disease-reducing vaccine efficacies were considered. Findings: The optimal age-based vaccine prioritisation strategies were sensitive to country characteristics, decision-making metrics and roll-out speeds. Overall, V60 consistently performed better than or comparably to V75. There were greater benefits in prioritising older adults when roll-out is slow and when VE is low. Under faster roll-out, V+ was the most desirable option. Interpretation: A prioritisation strategy involving more age-based stages (V75) does not necessarily lead to better health and economic outcomes than targeting broad age groups (V60). Countries expecting a slow vaccine roll-out may particularly benefit from prioritising older adults. Funding: World Health Organization, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Medical Research Council (United Kingdom), the National Institute of Health Research (United Kingdom), the European Commission, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (United Kingdom), Wellcome Trust

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