On the use of zero-inflated and hurdle models for modeling vaccine adverse event count data

J Biopharm Stat. 2006;16(4):463-81. doi: 10.1080/10543400600719384.


We compared several modeling strategies for vaccine adverse event count data in which the data are characterized by excess zeroes and heteroskedasticity. Count data are routinely modeled using Poisson and Negative Binomial (NB) regression but zero-inflated and hurdle models may be advantageous in this setting. Here we compared the fit of the Poisson, Negative Binomial (NB), zero-inflated Poisson (ZIP), zero-inflated Negative Binomial (ZINB), Poisson Hurdle (PH), and Negative Binomial Hurdle (NBH) models. In general, for public health studies, we may conceptualize zero-inflated models as allowing zeroes to arise from at-risk and not-at-risk populations. In contrast, hurdle models may be conceptualized as having zeroes only from an at-risk population. Our results illustrate, for our data, that the ZINB and NBH models are preferred but these models are indistinguishable with respect to fit. Choosing between the zero-inflated and hurdle modeling framework, assuming Poisson and NB models are inadequate because of excess zeroes, should generally be based on the study design and purpose. If the study's purpose is inference then modeling framework should be considered. For example, if the study design leads to count endpoints with both structural and sample zeroes then generally the zero-inflated modeling framework is more appropriate, while in contrast, if the endpoint of interest, by design, only exhibits sample zeroes (e.g., at-risk participants) then the hurdle model framework is generally preferred. Conversely, if the study's primary purpose it is to develop a prediction model then both the zero-inflated and hurdle modeling frameworks should be adequate.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthrax Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Binomial Distribution*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Odds Ratio
  • Poisson Distribution*


  • Anthrax Vaccines