Universal Coronavirus Vaccine Could Save Lives, Costs During Next Epidemic

Drug Topics JournalDrug Topics January/February 2024
Volume 168
Issue 01

A new study found that a universal coronavirus vaccine would be cost saving as long as it had an efficacy and coverage of 10% or more.

A universal coronavirus vaccine that would be ready in the case of a future outbreak could save millions of lives and billions of dollars while a strain-specific vaccine is developed, new research published in the journal eCLinicalMedicine found.1

"COVID-19 was the third major and serious coronavirus epidemic or pandemic following SARS in 2002 and MERS in 2012, thus, we should anticipate a fourth coronavirus outbreak within the next decade or so,” Peter J. Hotez, an author on the study, said in a release.2 “A universal vaccine is cost-effective and cost-saving and a priority for advancement."

Investigators from the City University of New York Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy conducted a study to evaluate different types of universal and strain-specific coronavirus vaccines. Researchers created a computational simulation model to represent the spread and impact of a novel coronavirus in the United States.

The simulation model employed data from the CDC and observational studies conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic to examine both clinical and economic outcomes on the US population, including hospitalizations, deaths, quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) lost, direct medical costs, productivity losses, and total societal costs.

The aim of the study was “…to offer potential funders, researchers, and manufacturers guidance on the potential value of such a vaccine and how this value may change with differing vaccine and vaccination characteristics.”

Investigators found that a universal coronavirus vaccine would be cost saving by itself as long as it had an efficacy and coverage of 10% or more. For every 1% increase in efficacy up to 50%, the vaccine could prevent 395000 additional infections and save around $1 billion in societal costs, including $45.3 million in productivity losses and $1.1 billion in direct medical costs.

Additionally, as long as a strain-specific coronavirus vaccine took 2 to 3 months to develop, test, and bring to market, the universal vaccine would still be cost saving.

Researchers noted that future studies should explore the impact of different variants that could emerge during the course of an epidemic, as it could provide additional opportunities on how a universal coronavirus vaccine could be useful.

"Our study shows the importance of giving as many people as possible in a population at least some degree of immune protection as soon as possible," Bruce Y. Lee, an author on the study, said in a release.2 "Having a universal vaccine developed, stockpiled, and ready to go in the event of a pandemic could be a game-changer even if a more specific vaccine could be developed 3 to 4 months later."

1. Bartsch SM, O’Shea KJ, John DC, et al. The potential epidemiologic, clinical, and economic value of a universal coronavirus vaccine: A modelling study. eClinicalMedicine. Published online 2024:102369. doi:10.1016/j.eclinm.2023.102369
2. A universal coronavirus vaccine could save billions of dollars if ready before next pandemic. News Release. CUNY SPH. January 11, 2024. Accessed January 15, 2024. https://sph.cuny.edu/life-at-sph/news/2024/01/11/universal-coronavirus-vaccine-could-save-billions-of-dollars/
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