The potential epidemiologic, clinical, and economic value of a universal coronavirus vaccine: a modelling study

In the study, researchers from the Public Health Informatics, Computational and Operations Research (PHICOR) group, the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy (CUNY SPH), and the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) show that having a universal vaccine at the start of the pandemic would have had substantial health and economic benefits under almost all scenarios tested. The study was published Jan. 11 in the Lancet’s eClinicalMedicine.

In order to determine the value of investing in developing and stockpiling a universal coronavirus vaccine, the team developed a computational model that simulated the entire U.S. population, the introduction and spread of a novel coronavirus like SARS-CoV-2 in 2020 and the resulting health (e.g., infections, hospitalizations) and economic (e.g., direct medical costs, productivity losses) outcomes. The experiments simulated what would happen if a universal coronavirus vaccine was available at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vaccinating with a universal coronavirus vaccine as a standalone intervention (e.g., no face mask use or social distancing) was cost-saving even when its efficacy was as low as 10% and only 10% of the U.S. population received the vaccine. For example, when a universal coronavirus vaccine has 10% efficacy, vaccinating a quarter of the U.S. population within two months of the start of the pandemic averts an average of 14.6 million infections and saves over $27 billion in direct medical costs. Such low vaccine coverage at the start of the pandemic could occur if a vaccine were only made available to certain high-risk subpopulations (e.g., 65 years and older, those with weakened immune systems, frontline workers), similar to the approach when mRNA vaccines became available in December 2020.

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