The cost structure of routine infant immunization services: a systematic analysis of six countries
Little information exists on the cost structure of routine infant immunization services in low- and middle-income settings. Using a unique dataset of routine infant immunization costs from six countries, we estimated how costs were distributed across budget categories and programmatic activities, and investigated how the cost structure of immunization sites varied by country and site characteristics. The EPIC study collected data on routine infant immunization costs from 319 sites in Benin, Ghana, Honduras, Moldova, Uganda, Zambia, using a standardized approach. For each country, we estimated the economic costs of infant immunization by administrative level, budget category, and programmatic activity from a programme perspective. We used regression models to describe how costs within each category were related to site operating characteristics and efficiency level. Site-level costs (incl. vaccines) represented 77-93% of national routine infant immunization costs. Labour and vaccine costs comprised 14-69% and 13-69% of site-level cost, respectively. The majority of site-level resources were devoted to service provision (facility-based or outreach), comprising 48-78% of site-level costs across the six countries. Based on the regression analyses, sites with the highest service volume had a greater proportion of costs devoted to vaccines, with vaccine costs per dose relatively unaffected by service volume but non-vaccine costs substantially lower with higher service volume. Across all countries, more efficient sites (compared with sites with similar characteristics) had a lower cost share devoted to labour. The cost structure of immunization services varied substantially between countries and across sites within each country, and was related to site characteristics. The substantial variation observed in this sample suggests differences in operating model for otherwise similar sites, and further understanding of these differences could reveal approaches to improve efficiency and performance of immunization sites.