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Feature Covid-19

Will covid-19 vaccines be cost effective—and does it matter?

BMJ 2020; 371 doi: (Published 26 November 2020) Cite this as: BMJ 2020;371:m4491

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  1. John Appleby, director of research and chief economist
  1. Nuffield Trust, London, UK
  1. john.appleby{at}

The costs of other pandemic measures mean that covid-19 vaccines will probably turn out to be a good buy, says John Appleby, and the full calculations will raise questions about NICE methods

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the early results of their covid-19 vaccine trial,1 and immunisation for the novel coronavirus could be available in months. Of course hurdles remain, and more data need to be gathered about the efficacy and safety of the vaccines being trialled. One hurdle that new health technologies usually have to jump is cost effectiveness: is the value of the benefits worth the costs?

Although they have saved lives, the tactics used so far to try to get on top of the pandemic have had huge costs to people’s livelihoods and, as the NHS reprioritised its work, to people’s health (fig 1, fig 2 …

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