Estimating the contribution of different age strata to vaccine serotype pneumococcal transmission in the pre vaccine era: a modelling study

BMC Med. 2020 Jun 10;18(1):129. doi: 10.1186/s12916-020-01601-1.


Background: Herd protection through interruption of transmission has contributed greatly to the impact of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines (PCVs) and may enable the use of cost-saving reduced dose schedules. To aid PCV age targeting to achieve herd protection, we estimated which population age groups contribute most to vaccine serotype (VT) pneumococcal transmission.

Methods: We used transmission dynamic models to mirror pre-PCV epidemiology in England and Wales, Finland, Kilifi in Kenya and Nha Trang in Vietnam where data on carriage prevalence in infants, pre-school and school-aged children and adults as well as social contact patterns was available. We used Markov Chain Monte Carlo methods to fit the models and then extracted the per capita and population-based contribution of different age groups to VT transmission.

Results: We estimated that in all settings, < 1-year-old infants cause very frequent secondary vaccine type pneumococcal infections per capita. However, 1-5-year-old children have the much higher contribution to the force of infection at 51% (28, 73), 40% (27, 59), 37% (28, 48) and 67% (41, 86) of the total infection pressure in E&W, Finland, Kilifi and Nha Trang, respectively. Unlike the other settings, school-aged children in Kilifi were the dominant source for VT infections with 42% (29, 54) of all infections caused. Similarly, we estimated that the main source of VT infections in infants are pre-school children and that in Kilifi 39% (28, 51) of VT infant infections stem from school-aged children whereas this was below 15% in the other settings.

Conclusion: Vaccine protection of pre-school children is key for PCV herd immunity. However, in high transmission settings, school-aged children may substantially contribute to transmission and likely have waned much of their PCV protection under currently recommended schedules.

Keywords: Modelling; S. pneumoniae; Schedules; Transmission; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Herd / immunology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pneumococcal Infections / prevention & control*
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines / administration & dosage
  • Pneumococcal Vaccines / therapeutic use*
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / administration & dosage
  • Vaccines, Conjugate / therapeutic use*
  • Young Adult


  • Pneumococcal Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Conjugate