Expected utility of voluntary vaccination in the middel of an emergent Bluetongue virus serotype 8 epidemic: A decision analysis parameterized for Dutch circumtances

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In order to put a halt to the Bluetongue virus serotype 8 (BTV-8) epidemic in 2008, the European Commission promoted vaccination at a transnational level as a new measure to combat BTV-8. Most European member states opted for a mandatory vaccination campaign, whereas the Netherlands, amongst others, opted for a voluntary campaign. For the latter to be effective, the farmer's willingness to vaccinate should be high enough to reach satisfactory vaccination coverage to stop the spread of the disease. This study looked at a farmer's expected utility of vaccination, which is expected to have a positive impact on the willingness to vaccinate. Decision analysis was used to structure the vaccination decision problem into decisions, events and payoffs, and to define the relationships among these elements. Two scenarios were formulated to distinguish farmers’ mindsets, based on differences in dairy heifer management. For each of the scenarios, a decision tree was run for two years to study vaccination behaviour over time. The analysis was done based on the expected utility criterion. This allows to account for the effect of a farmer's risk preference on the vaccination decision. Probabilities were estimated by experts, payoffs were based on an earlier published study. According to the results of the simulation, the farmer decided initially to vaccinate against BTV-8 as the net expected utility of vaccination was positive. Re-vaccination was uncertain due to less expected costs of a continued outbreak. A risk averse farmer in this respect is more likely to re-vaccinate. When heifers were retained for export on the farm, the net expected utility of vaccination was found to be generally larger and thus was re-vaccination more likely to happen. For future animal health programmes that rely on a voluntary approach, results show that the provision of financial incentives can be adjusted to the farmers’ willingness to vaccinate over time. Important in this respect are the decision moment and the characteristics of the disease. Farmers’ perceptions of the disease risk and about the efficacy of available control options cannot be neglected.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-87
JournalPreventive Veterinary Medicine
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • field observations
  • health
  • dairy
  • netherlands
  • economics
  • farmers
  • cattle
  • incentives
  • management
  • insurance


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