Professor Christopher Snyder: I teach in the Economics Department at Dartmouth. One of my favorite parts of the job is to be able to work with students on research projects. On one recent project, I worked with Dartmouth student Wills Begor ‘12 and an MIT professor. The project ended up as an article published in the journal Health Affairs on which we are all three coauthors. Before getting into the details, Wills can talk about his involvement in the project.
Wills Begor ‘12: I started doing research with Professor Snyder during the winter of my junior year as part of the James O. Freedman Presidential Scholars Program, a unique program at Dartmouth that provides opportunities for juniors to work as research assistants for Dartmouth faculty.
Prof. Snyder: My interest in this research began some years back when I worked a program sponsored by GAVI (Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations) and the Gates Foundation to design an innovative solution, known as an advance market commitment, for procuring vaccines in developing countries. Sponsors pledged $1.5 billion for a pilot program targeting second-generation vaccines for the pneumococcal disease. Although pneumococcus is not a big killer in rich countries because we have ready access to antibiotics, it ends up killing nearly one million children in poor countries each year. Our goal was to use the tools of economics to design the program to get the most health benefit out of the pledged fund.
Wills: Our article in Health Affairs examined the performance of the program so far. To gauge its performance, we compared the rollout of a first-generation pneumococcal vaccine without the advance market commitment to the rollout of second-generation vaccines under the pilot program. You can see in Exhibit 4 that without the advanced market commitment there was a nine-year lag between the introduction of the vaccine in rich compared to poor (GAVI-eligible) countries.
On the other hand, in Exhibit 5, under the advanced market commitment, the lag between the rollout of the pneumococcal vaccine in developed and developing countries was virtually eliminated. While time will tell the ultimate benefit of the program, it appears that the initiative had a dramatic effect.
These exhibits just scratch the surface of the work we did. We collected all sorts of data on when vaccines were introduced in various countries, the number of vaccinations administered each year, not just for pneumococcus but for other vaccine rollouts such as for polio and measles. We also used economics to study how alternative designs might have changed the costs and benefits of the program.
Prof. Snyder: So you can see that the course work and research students are involved in at Dartmouth have the potential to make a real impact on broad issues like global health. The opportunity to work closely on with undergraduates is one of the big reasons that I joined the Dartmouth faculty.
Wills and Prof. Snyder: Congratulations Class of 2016 and welcome to Dartmouth!