This is a question the US Institute of Medicine hopes its new SMART Vaccines tool can help to answer. The software helps decision-makers to identify and rank the key factors that will guide their decisions and could even be used to help governments choose which health interventions offer the best value.
Dr Harvey Fineberg, President of the IOM, told Vaccines Today that there are a multitude of options for investing in potential new vaccines but, as resources are finite, a systematic approach is needed in order to prioritise.
“It’s a very complicated question when you begin to think about where we should invest our money. How many people might be helped? How severe are the diseases and which populations would benefit. What are the costs and how will the vaccine be delivered. There are questions about safety and side effects or benefits that might follow from the use of the vaccine,” he explains.
“There are many factors to keep in mind and it’s very difficult to do that without the aid of a decision-making tool to rank the key factors and identify the values.”
That is why the IOM developed the SMART Vaccines package which Dr Fineberg says is flexible and could be adapted to support other complex decisions.
“One of the advantages of a tool like this is that it can be used by individuals in different countries and by different decision-makers – including manufacturers, purchasers, regulators – all of whom bring a distinct perspective to what really matters in making these decisions.”
Not only could the software help to inform decisions about investment in future vaccines, it could even guide purchasing decisions.
“A tool like this, perhaps adapted, can be very useful in deciding which vaccines to purchase and deploy in a particular setting. It could perhaps be used even to weigh investing in vaccines against other health investments.”