Improving the efficiency of infant immunization services

A study analyzing the cost structure of routine immunization programs in six countries found that the most efficient programs had the lowest labor costs.

The study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, published in the journal Health Policy and Planning, examined immunization programs in Benin, Ghana, Honduras, Moldova, Uganda and Zambia. Researchers found that the cost structure of immunization services varied substantially between countries. When they compared more and less efficient sites, they found that labor costs, a key driver of facility-level delivery costs, explained much of the difference.

“Management and administrative activities account for about a third of facility-level delivery costs,” said lead author Fangli Geng, research assistant at Harvard Chan School, in a July 26, 2017 Health Policy and Planning blog written by study co-author Christian Suharlim, research associate at Harvard Chan. “Innovations that make these activities more efficient could free up substantial resources to provide better services for underserved populations, such as those in geographically remote areas and the socially marginalized.”

The authors hope that information from the study—part of a larger Harvard Chan School project called EPIC (Expanded Program on Immunization Costing, Financing, and Efficiency)—will help improve the efficiency and performance of immunization programs around the world.

Other co-authors included Logan Brenzel of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Stephen Resch, Deputy Director of the Harvard Chan Center for Health Decision Science and principal investigator of the EPIC project, and Nicolas Menzies, assistant professor of global health in the Department of Global Health and Population. All Harvard Chan co-authors are affiliated with the School’s Center for Health Decision Science.

Read the Health Policy and Planning blog: Injecting a business perspective into routine immunization programs

Listen to a podcast about the study: The cost structure of routine infant immunization services: a systematic analysis of six countries

Learn more

Helping nations assess and manage immunization costs (Harvard Chan School feature)