How much does it cost to measure immunity? A costing analysis of a measles and rubella serosurvey in southern Zambia

Andrea C. Carcelen, Kyla Hayford, William J. Moss, Christopher Book, Philip E. Thuma, Francis D. Mwansa, Bryan Patenaude

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background Serosurveys are a valuable surveillance tool because they provide a more direct measure of population immunity to infectious diseases, such as measles and rubella, than vaccination coverage estimates. However, there is concern that serological surveys are costly. We adapted a framework to capture the costs associated with conducting a serosurvey in Zambia. Methods We costed a nested serosurvey in Southern Province, Zambia that collected dried blood spots from household residents in a post-campaign vaccine coverage survey. The financial costs were estimated using an ingredients-based costing approach. Inputs included personnel, transportation, field consumable items, social mobilization, laboratory supplies, and capital items, and were classified by serosurvey function (survey preparation, data collection, biospecimen collection, laboratory testing, and coordination). Inputs were stratified by whether they were applicable to surveys in general or attributable specifically to serosurveys. Finally, we calculated the average cost per cluster and participant. Results We estimated the total nested serosurvey cost was US $68,558 to collect dried blood spots from 658 participants in one province in Zambia. A breakdown of the cost by serosurvey phase showed data collection accounted for almost one third of the total serosurvey cost (32%), followed by survey preparation (25%) and biospecimen collection (20%). Analysis by input categories indicated personnel costs were the largest contributing input to overall serosurvey costs (51%), transportation was second (23%), and field consumables were third (9%). By combining the serosurvey with a vaccination coverage survey, there was a savings of $43,957. We estimated it cost $4,285 per average cluster and $104 per average participant sampled. Conclusions Adding serological specimen collection to a planned vaccination coverage survey provided a more direct measurement of population immunity among a wide age group but increased the cost by approximately one-third. Future serosurveys could consider ways to leverage existing surveys conducted for other purposes to minimize costs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0240734
JournalPloS one
Issue number10 October
StatePublished - Oct 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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