Paying people who inject drugs to get the hepatitis B vaccination pays off

May 2014

Small cash incentives can dramatically increase the likelihood of people who inject drugs completing a course of hepatitis B virus (HBV) vaccination, according to new research led by King’s College London.

A total of 210 drug users seeking treatment at 12 NHS drug treatment facilities were enrolled in the study between March 16, 2011, and April 26, 2012. Sixty-seven participants were scheduled to receive hepatitis B vaccinations but were offered no incentives, 78 participants were offered three fixed-value vouchers (£10 each) for each on-time appointment, and 65 were offered three vouchers of escalating value (£5, £10 and £15) for each on-time appointment.

The findings showed positive results overall for the incentive program. Of the 67 participants who did not receive any incentive, only six (9 percent) met the primary goal (on-time appearances for each of the three appointments). However, 35 of the 78 participants offered fixed-value vouchers (45 percent) met the primary goal successfully, and 32 of 65 participants offered vouchers of increasing value (49 percent) made each appointment on time. In all, participants offered vouchers to complete the vaccination series were 12 times more likely to do so than those who were offered no incentives.

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This is a potentially life-saving vaccine, and increasing its uptake among this group has important benefits to public health, as well as to the individual.

Professor John Strang, National Addiction Centre, King’s College London