The potential health and economic value of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination alongside physical distancing in the UK: transmission model-based future scenario analysis and economic evaluation

Status: Paper under peer review | First online: 26-09-2020 | Last update: 23-10-2020

This study has not yet been peer reviewed.

Background. In response to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), the UK adopted mandatory physical distancing measures in March 2020. Vaccines against the newly emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) may become available as early as late 2020. We explored the health and economic value of introducing SARS-CoV-2 immunisation alongside physical distancing scenarios in the UK.

Methods. We used an age-structured dynamic-transmission and economic model to explore different scenarios of immunisation programmes over ten years. Assuming vaccines are effective in 5-64 year olds, we compared vaccinating 90% of individuals in this age group to no vaccination. We assumed either vaccine effectiveness of 25% and 1-year protection and 90% re-vaccinated annually, or 75% vaccine effectiveness and 10-year protection and 10% re-vaccinated annually. Natural immunity was assumed to last 45 weeks in the base case. We also explored the additional impact of physical distancing. We considered benefits from disease prevented in terms of quality-adjusted life-years (QALYs), and costs to the healthcare payer versus the national economy. We discounted at 3.5% annually and monetised health impact at 20,000 per QALY to obtain the net monetary value, which we explored in sensitivity analyses.

Findings. Without vaccination and physical distancing, we estimated 147.9 million COVID-19 cases (95% uncertainty interval: 48.5 million, 198.7 million) and 2.8 million (770,000, 4.2 million) deaths in the UK over ten years. Vaccination with 75% vaccine effectiveness and 10-year protection may stop community transmission entirely for several years, whereas SARS-CoV-2 becomes endemic without highly effective vaccines. Introducing vaccination compared to no vaccination leads to economic gains (positive net monetary value) of 0.37 billion to +1.33 billion across all physical distancing and vaccine effectiveness scenarios from the healthcare perspective, but net monetary values of physical distancing scenarios may be negative from societal perspective if the daily national economy losses are persistent and large.

Interpretation. Our model findings highlight the substantial health and economic value of introducing SARS-CoV-2 vaccination. Given uncertainty around both characteristics of the eventually licensed vaccines and long-term COVID-19 epidemiology, our study provides early insights about possible future scenarios in a post-vaccination era from an economic and epidemiological perspective.

Read the full pre-print here.