As more and more new vaccines are developed and brought to the market, governments have to make decisions about which vaccinations to include in public programmes. This paper describes the experience in the Netherlands in developing a framework for assessing whether a vaccination should be included in the National Immunization Programme (NIP). Bearing in mind the public nature, the factors that determine a vaccine's suitability for inclusion in a communal vaccination programme have been translated into seven selection criteria, grouped under five thematic headings: seriousness and extent of the disease burden, effectiveness and safety of the vaccination, acceptability of the vaccination, efficiency of the vaccination, and priority of the vaccination. The seven criteria and the explanation of them provide a framework for the systematic examination of arguments for and against the inclusion and prioritisation of particular vaccinations. As an illustration, the vaccinations currently provided in the Netherlands through public programmes as well as 23 'candidate' vaccinations are assessed against the seven criteria. The proposed assessment framework including the selection criteria can take full account of the values and specificities as they may differ between situations and countries; the transparency of the approach may help to clarify which elements of the assessment are pivotal in specific situations. Using the criteria furthers a trustworthy, transparent and accountable process of decision-making about inclusion of new vaccinations in public vaccination programmes and may help to retain public confidence. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.