Background: Oropharyngeal carriage studies of Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib) and the rapid drop in Hib invasive disease in countries with widespread Hib conjugate vaccine immunization programmes for infants have indicated there may be significant indirect effects (herd immunity) associated with these vaccines. Our goal was to quantify the magnitude of these effects in an American Indian population during its early years of Hib immunization.
Methods: In a synthetic case-cohort study, we combined data from an efficacy trial, an immunization uptake records survey, and ongoing surveillance for Hib disease on the Navajo Nation from 1988 to 1992. Decline in the incidence of invasive Hib disease among children <2 years old was estimated via proportional hazards survival models as a function of individual immunization status and the proportion of immunized children in a community.
Results: The predominant vaccine during the study period was Hib-OMPC (92% of immunizations). The effectiveness of receipt of at least one dose was 97.2%. Compared to communities with 0-20% coverage with at least one dose, residence in communities with 20-40% and 40-60% coverage was associated with risk reductions of 56.5% and 73.2%, respectively.
Conclusions: The results indicate substantial indirect effects of Hib-OMPC immunization may occur even at relatively low levels of immunization coverage. Countries that implement Hib immunization programmes may receive greater benefits at the community level than those due to the direct protection conferred to the individual through vaccination.