Cost-effectiveness of vaccination of the elderly against herpes zoster in The Netherlands

Pieter T de Boer, Koen B Pouwels, Juul M Cox, Eelko Hak, Jan C Wilschut, Maarten J Postma

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BACKGROUND: Each year a substantial number of Dutch elderly suffers from herpes zoster (HZ), caused by the reactivation of the varicella zoster virus (VZV). A potential complication of HZ is postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) which results in a prolonged loss of quality of life. A large randomized clinical trial, labelled the Shingles Prevention study (SPS), demonstrated that a live attenuated VZV vaccine can reduce the incidence of HZ and PHN.

OBJECTIVE: We aimed to estimate the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) of vaccination of the elderly against HZ versus no such vaccination in The Netherlands.

METHODS: A cohort model was developed to compare the costs and effects in a vaccinated and a non-vaccinated age- and gender-stratified cohort of immune-competent elderly. Vaccination age was varied from 60 to 75 years. Data from published literature such as the SPS were used for transition probabilities. The study was performed from the societal as well as the health care payer's perspective and results were expressed in euros per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) gained.

RESULTS: In the base case, we estimated that vaccination of a cohort of 100,000 60-year-olds would prevent 4136 cases of HZ, 305 cases of PHN resulting in a QALY-gain of 209. From the societal perspective, a total of €1.9 million was saved and the ICER was €35,555 per QALY gained when a vaccine price of €87 was used. Vaccination of women resulted in a lower ICER than vaccination of men (€33,258 vs. €40,984 per QALY gained). The vaccination age with the most favourable ICER was 70 years (€29,664 per QALY gained). Parameters with a major impact on the ICER were the vaccine price and HZ incidence rates. In addition, the model was sensitive to utility of mild pain, vaccine efficacy at the moment of uptake and the duration of protection induced by the vaccine.

CONCLUSION: Vaccination against HZ might be cost-effective for ages ranging from 60 to 75 when a threshold of €50,000 per QALY gained would be used, at €20,000 per QALY this might not be the case. Additional information on the duration of vaccine-protection is needed to further optimize cost-effectiveness estimations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1276-1283
Number of pages8
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 18-Feb-2013


  • Herpes zoster
  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Zostavax
  • Vaccination
  • Postherpetic neuralgia
  • PAIN

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