Pertussis in England and Wales: An investigation of transmission dynamics and control by mass vaccination

B. T. Grenfell, R. M. Anderson

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The epidemiology of pertussis and its prospects for control by mass vaccination in England and Wales are investigated by analyses of longitudinal records on incidence and vaccine uptake, and horizontal data on age-stratified case reports. Mathematical models of the transmission dynamics of the infection that incorporate loss of natural and vaccine-induced immunity plus variable vaccine efficacy are developed, and their predictions compared with observed trends. Analyses of case reports reveal that the individual force of infection is age dependent, with peak transmission in the 5- to 10-year old age class. A model incorporating this age dependency, along with partial vaccine efficacy and loss of vaccine-induced immunity, generates predicted patterns that best mirror observed trends since mass vaccination was inaugurated in 1957 in England and Wales. Model projections accurately mirror the failure of mass vaccination to increase the inter-epidemic period of the infection (three years) over that pertaining before control. The analysis suggests that this is due to the impact of partial vaccine efficacy. Projected trends do not accurately reflect the low levels of pertussis incidence reported between epidemics in the periods of high vaccine uptake. This is thought to arise from a combination of factors, including loss of natural and vaccine induced immunity, biases in case reporting (where reporting efficiency is positively associated with the incidence of pertussis), and seasonal variations in transmission. Model predictions suggest that the vaccination of 88% of each birth cohort before the age of 1 year will eliminate bacterial transmission, provided the vaccine confers lifelong protection against infection. If vaccine-induced immunity is significantly less than lifelong (or if vaccination fails to protect all its recipients) repeated cohort immunization is predicted to be necessary to eliminate transmission. Future research needs are discussed, and emphasis is placed on the need for more refined data on vaccine efficacy, the duration of natural and vaccine-induced immunity and the incidence of clinical pertussis and subclinical infections (perhaps by the development of reliable serological tests). Future mathematical models will need especially to incorporate seasonality in transmission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-252
Number of pages40
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1284
StatePublished - Jan 1 1989
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Environmental Science
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences


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