Vaccination and the dynamics of immune evasion

J R Soc Interface. 2007 Feb 22;4(12):143-53. doi: 10.1098/rsif.2006.0167.


Vaccines exert strong selective pressures on pathogens, favouring the spread of antigenic variants. We propose a simple mathematical model to investigate the dynamics of a novel pathogenic strain that emerges in a population where a previous strain is maintained at low endemic level by a vaccine. We compare three methods to assess the ability of the novel strain to invade and persist: algebraic rate of invasion; deterministic dynamics; and stochastic dynamics. These three techniques provide complementary predictions on the fate of the system. In particular, we emphasize the importance of stochastic simulations, which account for the possibility of extinctions of either strain. More specifically, our model suggests that the probability of persistence of an invasive strain (i) can be minimized for intermediate levels of vaccine cross-protection (i.e. immune protection against the novel strain) and (ii) is lower if cross-immunity acts through a reduced infectious period rather than through reduced susceptibility.

MeSH terms

  • Antigenic Variation / immunology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate / immunology*
  • Models, Immunological
  • Models, Statistical
  • Pertussis Vaccine / administration & dosage*
  • Population Dynamics*
  • Vaccination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Whooping Cough / epidemiology*
  • Whooping Cough / prevention & control*


  • Pertussis Vaccine