We estimated the possible effects of the next influenza pandemic in the United States and analyzed the economic impact of vaccine-based interventions. Using death rates, hospitalization data, and outpatient visits, we estimated 89,000 to 207,000 deaths; 314,000 to 734,000 hospitalizations; 18 to 42 million outpatient visits; and 20 to 47 million additional illnesses. Patients at high risk (15% of the population) would account for approximately 84% of all deaths. The estimated economic impact would be US$71.3 to $166.5 billion, excluding disruptions to commerce and society. At $21 per vaccinee, we project a net savings to society if persons in all age groups are vaccinated. At $62 per vaccinee and at gross attack rates of 25%, we project net losses if persons not at high risk for complications are vaccinated. Vaccinating 60% of the population would generate the highest economic returns but may not be possible within the time required for vaccine effectiveness, especially if two doses of vaccine are required.

Influenza pandemics have occurred for centuries, three times (1918, 1957, and 1968) in the 20th century alone. Another pandemic is highly likely, if not inevitable (Patriarca and Cox, 1997). In the 1918 influenza pandemic, more than 20 million people died (Simonsen et al., 1998). Improvements in medical care and technology since the last pandemic may reduce the impact of the next. When planning for the next pandemic, however, decision makers need to examine the following questions: Would it make economic sense to vaccinate the entire U.S. population if 15% were to become clinically ill? What if 25% were to become ill? To answer such questions, we conducted economic analyses of potential intervention scenarios.

Although many studies have examined or reviewed the economics of influenza vaccination (Campbell and Rumley, 1997; Carrat and Valleron, 1995; Jefferson and Demicheli, 1998; Kavet, 1977; Office of Technology Assessment, 1981; Patriarca et al., 1987; Riddiough et al., 1983; Schoenbaum, 1987), only one study (Schoenbaum et al., 1976), published in 1976, examined the economics of a vaccine-based intervention aimed at reducing the impact of an influenza epidemic in the United States. Our study examines the possible economic effects of the next influenza pandemic in the United States, analyzes these effects, and uses the results to estimate the costs, benefits, and policy implications of several possible vaccine-based interventions. These estimates can be used in developing national and state plans to respond to an influenza pandemic.2 Unlike the

2  

A complete plan detailing a response to an influenza pandemic should include definition of a pandemic, points that will initiate various steps in the response plan, and details about deploying the intervention. While a U.S. federal influenza pandemic plan is being developed, a guide to aid state and territorial health officials in developing plans for their jurisdictions is available at http://www.cdc.gov/od/nvpo/pandemicflu.htm. Printed copies can be obtained from the author.



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