Differences in definitions and methodological approaches have hindered comparison and synthesis of economic evaluation results across multiple health domains, including immunization. At the request of the World Health Organization's (WHO) Immunization and Vaccines-related Implementation Research Advisory Committee (IVIR-AC), WHO convened an ad hoc Vaccine Delivery Costing Working Group, comprising experts from eight organizations working in immunization costing, to address a lack of standardization and gaps in definitions and methodological guidance. The aim of the Working Group was to develop a consensus statement harmonizing terminology and principles and to formulate recommendations for vaccine delivery costing for decision making. This paper discusses the process, findings of the review, and recommendations in the Consensus Statement.
The Working Group conducted several interviews, teleconferences, and one in-person meeting to identify groups working in vaccine delivery costing as well as existing guidance documents and costing tools, focusing on those for low- and middle-income country settings. They then reviewed the costing aims, perspectives, terms, methods, and principles in these documents. Consensus statement principles were drafted to align with the Global Health Cost Consortium costing guide as an agreed normative reference, and consensus definitions were drafted to reflect the predominant view across the documents reviewed.
The Working Group identified four major workstreams on vaccine delivery costing as well as nine guidance documents and eleven costing tools for immunization costing. They found that some terms and principles were commonly defined while others were specific to individual workstreams. Based on these findings and extensive consultation, recommendations to harmonize differences in terminology and principles were made.
Use of standardized principles and definitions outlined in the Consensus Statement within the immunization delivery costing community of practice can facilitate interpretation of economic evidence by global, regional, and national decision makers. Improving methodological alignment and clarity in program costing of health services such as immunization is important to support evidence-based policies and optimal resource allocation. On the other hand, this review and Consensus Statement development process revealed the limitations of our ability to harmonize given that study designs will vary depending upon the policy question that is being addressed and the country context.