Vaccination: A Cost-Effective Way To Prevent Rabies Deaths In India

A new study shows that over the course of five years, vaccinating 200,000 stray dogs a year would reduce rabies incidence in humans by 90 percent.

AsianScientist (Jan. 25, 2017) – Vaccinating just 13 percent of India’s stray dogs would reduce the levels of rabies in humans by 90 percent, according to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Every year in India, 20,000 people are estimated to die from rabies. Most of the victims are children. Nearly all of the deaths occur after victims are bitten by rabid dogs. For years, experts have debated the best strategy to reduce this burden.

In a study focused on the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, researchers have found that vaccinating 200,000 stray dogs a year for five years would reduce rabies incidence by 90 percent. They estimated this strategy would cost about US$1.27 million annually.

“We wanted to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different rabies control strategies,” said the lead researcher on the study, Dr. Meagan C. Fitzpatrick, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Maryland. “Our goal was to maximize the impact of vaccination and/or sterilization on human health outcomes in the real world, where policymakers operate within cost constraints.”

The research team also included scientists from the Yale School of Public Health, the Public Health Foundation of India, the Harvard School of Public Health, and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

Fitzpatrick and her colleagues examined a range of strategies aimed at stray dogs, including vaccination as well as combined vaccination and sterilization. They also looked at different numbers of dogs captured and treated per day, to identify the most efficient scale for the program. The ten-year cumulative cost of these programs ranged from US$12 million to US$72 million. Indian decision-makers face competing health priorities, and as a result, reducing rabies must be cost-effective.

The researchers used a measurement known as Disability-Adjusted Life Year, or DALY, to compare the efficiency of each approach. Fitzpatrick measured how many DALYs each strategy would save, allowing her to compare costs. Based on this approach, a strategy of vaccination without sterilization was the most efficient way to reduce death from rabies.

The article can be found at: Fitzpatrick et al. (2016) One Health Approach to Cost-effective Rabies Control in India.


Source: University of Maryland; Photo: Shutterstock.
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