Volume 30, Issue 33 pp. 4897-5058 (13 July 2012)
Assessing potential introduction of universal or targeted hepatitis A vaccination in the Netherlands
Original Research Article
A.W.M. Suijkerbuijk, A.K. Lugnér, W. van Pelt, J. Wallinga, L.P.B. Verhoef, H.E. de Melker, G.A. de Wit
In many industrialized countries, hepatitis A incidence rates have declined steadily in the past decades. Since future cohorts of non-vaccinated elderly will lack protection against disease and the burden of hepatitis A is higher with increasing age, this could be an argument in favour of taking preventive measures such as including hepatitis A vaccine into the National Immunisation Program, or offering hepatitis A vaccine to the elderly only. Using a vaccination evaluation scheme, we assessed the potential benefits and drawbacks of introducing hepatitis A vaccine in the National Immunisation Program in the Netherlands. The average number of annual hepatitis A notifications is declining, from 957 in the period 1991 to 1995 to 211 over the period 2006 to 2010. The direct health care costs and costs due to productivity losses per patient are rising, because the age at infection increases and older patients require a relatively higher number of hospitalizations. Initiating a vaccination program would most likely not be cost-effective yet. The annual costs of mass-vaccination are large: about €10 million for infants and €13 million for older people (and only in the first year €210 million), based on current retail prices. The annual effects of mass-vaccination are small: the cost-of-illness in recent years attributed to hepatitis A infection is estimated to be €650,000 per year, and the disease burden is on average 17 DALYs. Given the current low hepatitis A incidence, and the continuing decline in incidence, targeted preventive measures such as vaccinating travellers and other high-risk groups and timely vaccination of close contacts of hepatitis A patients are adequate. However, because susceptibility to hepatitis A is increasing in the group with the highest risk of developing severe complications upon infections, careful monitoring of the epidemiology of hepatitis A remains important.