Herd immunity alters the conditions for performing dose schedule comparisons: an individual-based model of pneumococcal carriage

BMC Infect Dis. 2019 Mar 5;19(1):227. doi: 10.1186/s12879-019-3833-6.


Background: There is great interest in the use of reduced dosing schedules for pneumococcal conjugate vaccines, a strategy premised on maintaining an acceptable level of protection against disease and carriage of the organism. We asked about the practicality of measuring differential effectiveness against carriage in a population with and without widespread use of the vaccine for infants.

Methods: We adapted an existing transmission-dynamic, individual-based stochastic model fitted to the prevaccine epidemiology of pneumococcal carriage in the United States, and compared the observed vaccine-type carriage prevalence in different arms of a simulated trial with one, two, or three infant doses plus a 12-month booster. Using these simulations, we calculated vaccine efficacy that would be estimated at different times post-enrollment in the trial and calculated required sample sizes to see a difference in carriage prevalence.

Results: In a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV)-naïve population, the difference in vaccine-type (VT) pneumococcal carriage prevalence between trial arms was less than 7% and varied with sampling time. In a population already receiving routine PCV administration, VT pneumococcal prevalence is nearly indistinguishable between trial arms. Relative efficacy of different dosing schedules was strongly dependent on the time between enrollment and sampling, with maximal prevalence differences reached 1-3 years post-enrollment. Moreover, vaccine efficacy estimates were typically slightly higher in trials in communities already receiving vaccination. Despite this, much larger sample sizes-by more than an order of magnitude-are required for a vaccine trial conducted in a population receiving routine PCV administration as compared to in a PCV-naïve population.

Conclusions: These findings highlight some underappreciated aspects of clinical trials of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines with efficacy endpoints, such as the context- and time-dependence of efficacy estimates. They support the wisdom of conducting comparative dose schedule trials of conjugate vaccine effects on carriage in vaccine-naïve populations.

Keywords: Conjugate; Dosage; Herd; Immunity; Pneumococcal; Simulation; Trial; Vaccine.

MeSH terms

  • Carrier State / immunology*
  • Computer Simulation
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Immunologic
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Herd*
  • Infant
  • Models, Immunological
  • Pneumococcal Infections / immunology*
  • Pneumococcal Infections / prevention & control
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines / immunology*
  • Prevalence
  • Sample Size
  • Streptococcus pneumoniae
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / immunology


  • Pneumococcal Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate