COVID-19 vaccines should be evaluated from the societal perspective.

Publication date: Nov 28, 2023

The COVID-19 pandemic demonstrates the importance of valuing vaccines from a broad societal perspective (SP), as opposed to a narrower health-payer perspective (HPP). COVID-19’s catastrophic global impacts extend not only to its health-related effects, but also to the profound macroeconomic losses caused by lockdowns required for disease control, leading to the worst global economic crisis in a century. COVID-19 vaccination (CV) has been the central policy tool for resolving this economic crisis, and it has been hypothesized that this macroeconomic benefit alone justifies the cost of CV many times over. Yet HPP-based vaccine valuations are wholly insensitive to this enormous benefit, not allowing it to influence the allocation of given health budgets nor the determination of the magnitudes of such budgets, thereby risking inadequate societal spending on CV. HPP allocates given health budgets to maximize only health, giving no weight to macroeconomic outcomes, causing allocative inefficiency by not allowing welfare-improving trade-offs of health for wealth. HPP assumes health budgets are optimal, not scrutinizing whether their scale adequately reflects the macroeconomic benefits of health spending, thereby risking productive inefficiency by foregoing health spending increases such as on CV that could raise both population-level health and wealth. These allocative and productive inefficiencies in turn distort for-profit R&D incentives, risking dynamic inefficiency. And since the socio-economic and health burdens of COVID-19 are disproportionately borne by the worse off, HPP’s failure to promote optimal levels of societal investment in CV may disproportionately burden the worse off as well, exacerbating inequality. Vaccine valuations from the societal perspective allow the allocation and determination of health budgets to reflect macroeconomic and distributional values, thereby promoting allocative, productive, and dynamic efficiency, as well as equity. These considerations of efficiency and equity support evaluating CV, and to ensure a level playing field, all vaccines, from a societal perspective.

Concepts Keywords
Covid COVID-19
Field economic evaluation
Inefficiencies health payer perspective
Macroeconomic I180
Vaccine societal perspective


Type Source Name
disease MESH COVID-19
disease VO vaccination
disease VO vaccine
disease VO population
disease VO efficiency
disease VO Equity

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