Disease and economic modelling

In science, research questions are mostly answered by planned repeated experiments.  For infectious diseases, experimenting in communities is often not feasible or ethical. Instead, we rely on observational data that are subject to reporting delays, supplemented by periodic population samples such as cross-sectional serosurveys. The fluctuating nature of infectious disease risks make mathematical models of pathogen transmission an attractive tool to aid policy formulation from such data. At a population level, analysis of the effects of vaccines now routinely incorporates modelling of the “herd protection” effect due to disruption of transmission. Economic modelling provides an opportunity to evaluate the value for money offered by prevention programs and can be integrated with mathematical models to provide more accurate estimates of cost-effectiveness. This type of analysis is important to help ensure that scarce healthcare budgets are allocated wisely, in an efficient and equitable manner. Prominent examples of this integrated approach include evaluation of human papilloma virus and zoster vaccine programs.

Modelling can also provide guidance as to the most effective approach for vaccine programs because it provides a means to compare multiple alternative strategies. For example, would influenza vaccination of school-children protect risk groups (through reducing transmission) more effectively than direct targeting of at-risk populations? How does cocooning infants from pertussis by vaccinating parents compare with maternal or infant vaccination strategies? These questions will often require specific data on at-risk populations, favouring an integrated approach where modellers work in observational study teams to help guide study design and the selection of outcomes. Modelling and economic analyses on vaccines for at-risk or marginalised subpopulations are rare and may not be always be highly prioritised by industry. ThisCRE will be ideally placed to address this evidence gap, providing independent investigator-driven modeling and economic analysis to help direct evidence-based decision making. CII Beutels, from the Centre for Health Economics Research and Modeling Infectious Diseases, University of Antwerp, has an established link and publication track record with the Australian CIs MacIntyre and McIntyre, and with PRPs J Wood and A Newall. He will lead this stream.