Public health impact and cost-effectiveness of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine: a systematic comparison of predictions from four mathematical models

November 5, 2015


The phase 3 trial of the RTS,S/AS01 malaria vaccine candidate showed modest efficacy of the vaccine against Plasmodium falciparum malaria, but was not powered to assess mortality endpoints. Impact projections and cost-effectiveness estimates for longer timeframes than the trial follow-up and across a range of settings are needed to inform policy recommendations. We aimed to assess the public health impact and cost-effectiveness of routine use of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine in African settings.

We compared four malaria transmission models and their predictions to assess vaccine cost-effectiveness and impact. We used trial data for follow-up of 32 months or longer to parameterise vaccine protection in the group aged 5-17 months. Estimates of cases, deaths, and disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) averted were calculated over a 15 year time horizon for a range of levels of Plasmodium falciparum parasite prevalence in 2-10 year olds (PfPR2-10; range 3–65%). We considered two vaccine schedules: three doses at ages 6, 7·5, and 9 months (three-dose schedule, 90% coverage) and including a fourth dose at age 27 months (four-dose schedule, 72% coverage). We estimated cost-effectiveness in the presence of existing malaria interventions for vaccine prices of US$2-10 per dose.

Figure 2

Model predictions of clinical cases and deaths averted per 100,000 children fully vaccinated with a three-dose or four-dose immunisation schedule for a range of baseline PfPR2-10 levels Results for the three-dose (A, C) and four-dose (B, D) schedules are cumulative following 15 years of routine use of RTS,S. Bars show median estimates and error bars show 95% credible intervals. Negative cases averted at low transmission are due to stochastic variation between model runs at low prevalence, rather than to any modelled biological mechanism. PfPR2-10=parasite prevalence in 2-10 year olds.

In regions with a PfPR2–10 of 10-65%, RTS,S/AS01 is predicted to avert a median of 93,940 (range 20,490-126,540) clinical cases and 394 (127-708) deaths for the three-dose schedule, or 116,480 (31,450-160,410) clinical cases and 484 (189-859) deaths for the four-dose schedule, per 100,000 fully vaccinated children. A positive impact is also predicted at a PfPR2-10 of 5-10%, but there is little impact at a prevalence of lower than 3%. At $5 per dose and a PfPR2-10 of 10-65%, we estimated a median incremental cost-effectiveness ratio compared with current interventions of $30 (range 18-211) per clinical case averted and $80 (44-279) per DALY averted for the three-dose schedule, and of $25 (16-222) and $87 (48-244), respectively, for the four-dose schedule. Higher ICERs were estimated at low PfPR2-10 levels.

We predict a significant public health impact and high cost-effectiveness of the RTS,S/AS01 vaccine across a wide range of settings. Decisions about implementation will need to consider levels of malaria burden, the cost-effectiveness and coverage of other malaria interventions, health priorities, financing, and the capacity of the health system to deliver the vaccine.