Engineering Study For The CDC Shows How To Fight Low Childhood Immunization,Save Millions In Health Costs

Blacksburg, Va., Dec. 17, 1998 - A pilot study for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) could help vaccine purchasers make some tough decisions and save millions of dollars in health care costs, according to the lead article to be published in a health care journal in January.

The study is part of an effort to maintain high childhood immunization rates despite an increasingly demanding Childhood Immunization Schedule, with requirements that leave many children missing inoculations and facing health risks that multiply medical costs. The pilot weighs the economic value of combining vaccines to reduce the number of injections or clinical visits.

The article's author, Sheldon H. Jacobson of Virginia Tech, and his co-writers focus on a potentially costly part of the immunization system: purchasing vaccines. The pilot study looked at vaccines for five potentially serious children's diseases: Hepatitis B, Haemophilus Influenza Type b, diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, known to parents as whooping cough. They created an "integer programming model" - a mathematical model - that more efficiently compares prices and manufacturers of vaccines.

The authors developed an algorithm that would permit adding the larger number of vaccines that are expected in the future.

The pilot is unique because it brings a practical set of operations research (OR) tools to vaccine selection and procurement. It grew out of a chance encounter between Jacobson and a CDC representative at a national meeting of the Institute for Operations Research and Management Sciences (INFORMS) two years ago. Jacobson is a member of INFORMS.

Vaccines being wasted

Jacobson notes that with new vaccine brands and types rapidly being introduced, often with differing features and in combinations with overlapping but non-identical components, it becomes impossible for vaccine purchasers to select the most efficient inventory to minimize c

Contact: Sheldon Jacobson
Virginia Tech

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