Combating pertussis resurgence: One booster vaccination schedule does not fit all.


Pertussis has reemerged as a major public health concern in many countries where it was once considered well controlled. Although the mechanisms responsible for continued pertussis circulation and resurgence remain elusive and contentious, many countries have nevertheless recommended booster vaccinations, the timing and number of which vary widely. Here, using a stochastic, age-stratified transmission model, we searched for cost-effective booster vaccination strategies using a genetic algorithm. We did so assuming four hypothesized mechanisms underpinning contemporary pertussis epidemiology: (I) insufficient coverage, (II) frequent primary vaccine failure, (III) waning of vaccine-derived protection, and (IV) vaccine "leakiness." For scenarios I-IV, successful booster strategies were identified and varied considerably by mechanism. Especially notable is the inability of booster schedules to alleviate resurgence when vaccines are leaky. Critically, our findings argue that the ultimate effectiveness of vaccine booster schedules will likely depend on correctly pinpointing the causes of resurgence, with misdiagnosis of the problem epidemiologically ineffective and economically costly.

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