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Economic Evaluation of Delivering Hepatitis B Vaccine to Injection Drug Users

      Background

      Injection drug users (IDUs) are at high risk of hepatitis B (HBV) infection, and hepatitis B vaccination coverage in IDUs is low. Recent studies demonstrate that syringe exchange programs are effective venues to reach and immunize IDUs. The purpose of this paper was to determine if targeting IDUs for HBV vaccination through syringe exchange programs is economically desirable for the healthcare system and to assess the relative effectiveness of several different vaccination strategies.

      Methods

      Active IDUs in Chicago IL and Hartford and Bridgeport CT (N=1964) were recruited and screened through local syringe exchange programs, randomized to a standard (0, 1, 6 months) or accelerated (0, 1, 2 months) vaccination schedule, and followed from May 2003 to March 2006. Analyses were conducted in 2007. The vaccination program's costs were balanced against future HBV-associated medical costs. Benefits in terms of prevented acute HBV infections and quality-adjusted life years were estimated based on a Markov model.

      Results

      HBV vaccination campaigns targeting IDUs through syringe exchange programs are cost-saving. The most cost-saving strategies include giving the first dose to everyone at screening, administering the vaccination under the accelerated schedule (0, 1, 2 months), and obtaining highly discounted vaccine from local health departments.

      Conclusions

      It is economically inappropriate to offer HBV screening in the absence of vaccination. Existing syringe exchange programs in the U.S. should include HBV vaccination.
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