Rationale, aims and objectives This study is part of a research effort to identify and quantify factors related to the cost-effectiveness of a vaccine acquisition strategy to reduce the burden of infectious diarrhoea on US military personnel deployed overseas. Where evidence is lacking in the scientific literature, or considerable uncertainty exists, it is often necessary to develop best estimates with ranges of certainty. To this end, a modified ‘Delphi’ survey technique to obtain the best estimates for uncertain parameters including clinical care-seeking behaviour for acute diarrhoea, routine diarrhoea management in a deployed setting, and vaccine development time frames and costs were developed from a diverse panel of experts.
Methods The study was conducted in three survey iterations. During each iteration, participants were contacted and given 2–3 weeks to complete a web-based survey designed to ascertain estimates, ranges of variability, and level of certainty for these estimates.
Results In all, 25 of 43 solicited experts agreed to participate in the study. These included three (12%) experts who identified themselves primarily as being currently involved in Vaccine Industry, six (24%) Academic/Military Diarrheal Vaccine Development, five (20%) Military Product Acquisition, five (20%) Military Preventive Medicine, two (8%) Tropical/Travel Medicine and four (16%) Military Clinical Infectious Disease. Management practices in deployed military populations (for both provider and self-treatment) were consistent with recently published literature. Similar target time frames for vaccine licensure were established for Enterotoxigenic E. coli, Campylobacter, Shigella and Norovirus of around 9–11 years. Targets for vaccine efficacy appear to be lower than currently licensed travel vaccines (60–80%), and there was consensus on more conservative adverse event rates.
Conclusions These data should prove useful to researchers and policy makers working in the area of vaccine acquisition for the US military and provide continued information on the gap in optimal travellers’ diarrhoea management practices in a deployed setting.