Pertussis immunity and epidemiology: mode and duration of vaccine-induced immunity
The resurgence of pertussis in some countries that maintain high vaccination coverage has drawn attention to gaps in our understanding of the epidemiological effects of pertussis vaccines. In particular, major questions surround the nature, degree, and durability of vaccine protection. To address these questions, we examined regional time series incidence data from Italy in the period immediately following the introduction of acellular pertussis vaccine (aP) using mechanistic transmission models. Our results concur with recent animal-challenge experiments wherein infections in aP-vaccinated individuals proved as transmissible as those in naïve individuals but much less symptomatic. On the other hand, the data provide evidence for vaccine-driven reduction in susceptibility, which we quantify via a synthetic measure of vaccine impact. As to the precise nature of vaccine failure, the data do not allow us to distinguish between leakiness and waning of vaccine immunity, or some combination of these. Across the range of well-supported models, the nature and duration of vaccine protection, the age profile of incidence, and the range of projected epidemiological futures differ substantially, underscoring the importance of the remaining unknowns. We identify key data gaps: sources of data that can supply the information needed to eliminate these remaining uncertainties.