Study on willingness to pay for an international warning system for infectious diseases pre-Covid-19

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During this unprecedented crisis, questions on the containment and mitigation of the Covid-19 outbreak, and especially questions on the institutions, which would have been needed to be established before to prevent this outbreak, emerge.

Our study, now published in the European Journal of Health Economics and funded by the European commission, shows that already two years ago, European citizens generally would have been willing to pay for such institutions, namely an integrated, international early warning system for infectious diseases with the aim to increase health safety.

The experiment asked for a hypothetical willingness to pay for such a system, which was described using the COMPARE network as its potential realization, and which would aim to contain and mitigate a then more hypothetical pandemic scenario.

The obtained overall mean willingness to pay of €21.80 per household per month (median €10.00) in additional taxation, which has to be interpreted in light of the limitations of willingness to pay studies, highlights that public funding of such a system would have been acceptable even before the current Covid-19 outbreak. Interestingly, median willingness to pay was highest in Italy, one of the regions with the largest Covid-19 burden today. High values for Italy can partly be explained by a very high willingness to pay within individuals with past exposure to infectious diseases.

It would not surprise if the found monetary estimates would be very different if these would be elicited today, now that a pandemic is not a distant, vague concept anymore. However, it would still be very interesting to analyze these differences, also across countries with different disease burdens and stages of public lockdown. Therefore, we intend to repeat the study, using the exact same design and countries within the next weeks.

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This blog was written by PhD Candidate Sebastian Himmler in response to the article ‘Willingness to pay for an early warning system for infectious diseases’, published in the European Journal of Health Economics on March 16, 2020.  

Co-authors of the article: prof.dr. Job van Exel, PhD Candidate Meg Perry-Duxbury, and prof.dr. Werner Brouwer.