Model recommendations meet management reality: implementation and evaluation of a network-informed vaccination effort for endangered Hawaiian monk seals

Proc Biol Sci. 2018 Jan 10;285(1870):20171899. doi: 10.1098/rspb.2017.1899.


Where disease threatens endangered wildlife populations, substantial resources are required for management actions such as vaccination. While network models provide a promising tool for identifying key spreaders and prioritizing efforts to maximize efficiency, population-scale vaccination remains rare, providing few opportunities to evaluate performance of model-informed strategies under realistic scenarios. Because the endangered Hawaiian monk seal could be heavily impacted by disease threats such as morbillivirus, we implemented a prophylactic vaccination programme. We used contact networks to prioritize vaccinating animals with high contact rates. We used dynamic network models to simulate morbillivirus outbreaks under real and idealized vaccination scenarios. We then evaluated the efficacy of model recommendations in this real-world vaccination project. We found that deviating from the model recommendations decreased the efficiency; requiring 44% more vaccinations to achieve a given decrease in outbreak size. However, we gained protection more quickly by vaccinating available animals rather than waiting to encounter priority seals. This work demonstrates the value of network models, but also makes trade-offs clear. If vaccines were limited but time was ample, vaccinating only priority animals would maximize herd protection. However, where time is the limiting factor, vaccinating additional lower-priority animals could more quickly protect the population.

Keywords: Hawaiian monk seal; morbillivirus; network model; vaccination; wildlife disease.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Computer Simulation*
  • Disease Outbreaks / prevention & control*
  • Endangered Species*
  • Hawaii / epidemiology
  • Models, Theoretical*
  • Morbillivirus / immunology*
  • Morbillivirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Morbillivirus Infections / prevention & control*
  • Morbillivirus Infections / transmission
  • Morbillivirus Infections / veterinary*
  • Seals, Earless / virology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vaccination / veterinary*

Associated data

  • figshare/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.3957718