BACKGROUND: Evidence on immunization costs is a critical input for cost-effectiveness analysis and budgeting, and can describe variation in site-level efficiency. The Expanded Program on Immunization Costing and Financing (EPIC) Project represents the largest investigation of immunization delivery costs, collecting empirical data on routine infant immunization in Benin, Ghana, Honduras, Moldova, Uganda, and Zambia.
METHODS: We developed a pooled dataset from individual EPIC country studies (316 sites). We regressed log total costs against explanatory variables describing service volume, quality, access, other site characteristics, and income level. We used Bayesian hierarchical regression models to combine data from different countries and account for the multi-stage sample design. We calculated output elasticity as the percentage increase in outputs (service volume) for a 1% increase in inputs (total costs), averaged across the sample in each country, and reported first differences to describe the impact of other predictors. We estimated average and total cost curves for each country as a function of service volume.
RESULTS: Across countries, average costs per dose ranged from $2.75 to $13.63. Average costs per child receiving diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis ranged from $27 to $139. Within countries costs per dose varied widely-on average, sites in the highest quintile were 440% more expensive than those in the lowest quintile. In each country, higher service volume was strongly associated with lower average costs. A doubling of service volume was associated with a 19% (95% interval, 4.0-32) reduction in costs per dose delivered, (range 13% to 32% across countries), and the largest 20% of sites in each country realized costs per dose that were on average 61% lower than those for the smallest 20% of sites, controlling for other factors. Other factors associated with higher costs included hospital status, provision of outreach services, share of effort to management, level of staff training/seniority, distance to vaccine collection, additional days open per week, greater vaccination schedule completion, and per capita gross domestic product.
CONCLUSIONS: We identified multiple features of sites and their operating environment that were associated with differences in average unit costs, with service volume being the most influential. These findings can inform efforts to improve the efficiency of service delivery and better understand resource needs.