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Dissertation Defense: Julie Schafer

Title: A Calculated Risk? Making Decisions on Stockpiling of Influenza Vaccines for Pre-Pandemic Use | When: June 22 from 10 AM – 12 PM | Where: MPA room 601Z

Dissertation Research Committee:

  • Donna Lind Infeld, PhD, Professor of Public Policy and Public Administration, Dissertation Director
  • Rebecca L. Katz, PhD, MPH, Associate Professor of International Health, Georgetown University, Committee Member
  • George W. Korch, PhD, Visiting Professor, Johns Hopkins University, Committee Member


  • Jeffrey Levi, PhD, Professor of Health Policy and Management
  • Bruce Gellin, MD, MPH, President, Global Immunization, Sabin Vaccine Institute

Abstract of Dissertation: A Calculated Risk? Making Decisions on Stockpiling of Influenza Vaccines for Pre-Pandemic Use
Humans have been affected by periodic pandemics, or global outbreaks, of influenza for centuries. Severe influenza pandemics can lead to millions of deaths and social and economic disruption worldwide. The purpose of this dissertation was to adapt and test a decision support tool to inform the decision whether to build and maintain a stockpile of pre-pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a nation’s pandemic preparedness. This dissertation addresses the following objectives: 1) assess the role, if any, that pre-pandemic vaccine stockpiles have as a part of pandemic influenza preparedness; 2) assess the tools are available to assist decision-makers in determining whether to stockpile pre-pandemic influenza vaccines; 3) determine the critical factors decision-makers use to consider stockpiling pre-pandemic influenza vaccines; 4) assess the performance of a decision support tool for stockpiling pre-pandemic vaccine; and 5) evaluate alternatives for pandemic influenza preparedness.

I explored the context of influenza, influenza vaccines and pandemic preparedness and review existing decision support tools related to vaccines. I reviewed theoretical frameworks that inform pandemic preparedness, including the precautionary principle. I surveyed subject matter experts for the most important attributes in considering pre-pandemic vaccine stockpiling. I used these findings to adapt and test a decision support tool, using the United States as the test case. Based on the attributes chosen by subject matter experts, the results strongly favored stockpiling pre-pandemic influenza vaccine for 20% of the population. In multiple pandemic scenarios, this largest option of pre-pandemic stockpiling consistently scored highest. This is likely due to the emphasis on health-related attributes and de-emphasis of costs by the subject matter experts in choosing important attributes to consider when making decisions about pre-pandemic vaccines. I discussed the implications of these findings and provide recommendations for future research, including alternatives to pre-pandemic vaccines to address the critical gap between emergence of a pandemic threat and availability of a well-matched vaccine, and recommendations for improved decision support tools that allow comparisons of disparate pandemic preparedness actions.


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