U-M study: Program to boost elderly flu vaccination could save lives

them to seek vaccination," says Davis.

"Flu vaccination itself for elderly people is cost-saving to the health care system. By increasing demand through a promotional campaign, we could increase vaccination rates and still have a cost-effective program. Our analysis indicates that is true even if the flu varies in intensity and the vaccine varies in effectiveness from year to year."

While many medical experts are leery of pharmaceutical companies' approach to consumer advertising, few have considered its potential impact for increasing vaccination rates among a targeted group through a program led by the federal government.

So Davis, along with second-year U-M Medical School student Mitesh Patel, analyzed the cost-effectiveness of a hypothetical 10-year federally sponsored flu vaccination promotional program aimed at the elderly. The program was designed to mimic the intensity of a direct-to-consumer advertising campaign, making it stronger and more expensive than a typical government public health promotion program.

They found that such a program would save 6,516 lives, or 69,138 life-years, over the course of 10 years, at a cost of approximately $37,600 per life-year saved.

With a total 10-year cost of $2.23 billion, which includes vaccines and advertising, the program would increase the vaccination rate by 20 percentage points within its first five years, and achieve a 25 percentage point increase at the end of 10 years, attaining the Healthy People 2010 vaccination target of 90 percent.

If the program were less successful in raising vaccination rates, Davis say it would be less cost-effective as a result. For example, if the 10-year program only raised national vaccination rates to 80 percent, the cost-effectiveness would be about $60,000 per life-year saved, he notes.

In all, direct-to-consumer advertising for flu vaccination has the potential to inform and motivate elderly people to seek vaccination, es


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