£1.9m funding to evaluate best way of using vaccines to protect vulnerable people in China

The London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine has been awarded almost £1.9 million by the UK’s National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to establish a global health research group which will examine vaccination strategies in China.

Vaccine vial

The work of the new National Institute for Health Research Group on Evidence to Policy Pathway to Immunisation in China’s (NIHR EPIC) will help decision-makers in China develop a vaccination programme that ensures reliable, affordable, equitable and uninterrupted supply of vaccines to the Chinese population.

NIHR EPIC is an international collaboration between the School, Public Health England, Fudan University (one of China's leading universities in public health), and the China Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. It brings together leading academic and public health institutions in the UK and China that are conducting vaccine research. 

Many countries have introduced new vaccines against diseases like Streptococcus pneumoniae, influenza and human papillomavirus. However, in China some new vaccines are not centrally funded, so many people pay for them out of their own pockets.  This makes certain vaccines inaccessible to poor and vulnerable people. 

China is investigating whether to increase the range of vaccines that are fully funded by central government but this will require considerable investment and manufacturing capacity to supply China’s huge population. NIHR EPIC will provide Chinese authorities with evidence of the potential health benefits, budget impact and value for money of investments in funding new vaccines. 

The Group will be co-directed by Mark Jit, Professor of Vaccine Epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, and Hongjie Yu, Professor at the School of Public Health, Fudan University.

Professor Jit said: “I am delighted we have been awarded this funding and excited at the prospect of working with such a talented team. Vaccines are one of the world’s greatest health success stories but some countries with vast populations, such as China, face tough decisions on the best way to implement vaccination strategies. The work of the new Group will supply evidence to help policymakers make decisions that will protect the most vulnerable people in the country. We will also examine ways to maintain public confidence in vaccines. Officials need to be assured of sufficient and reliable public demand so that local manufacturers will ensure a reliable and uninterrupted vaccine supply.”

NIHR EPIC will focus on three areas - collecting and analysing data about health and economic consequences of vaccine-preventable diseases in China, understanding vaccine supply, demand and decision making among the public, manufacturers and key stakeholders, and projecting the health and economic impact that vaccine introduction could have, particularly among the groups with the worst health.

Every project in NIHR EPIC will be a collaboration between the UK and China involving reciprocal exchanges of research students, scientists and experts advising the two governments. In the long term, NIHR EPIC aims to inspire similar models of research to inform immunisation policy elsewhere in Asia and around the world.