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Considering indirect benefits is critical when evaluating SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidates.

Abstract

Significant progress has already been made in development and testing of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines, and Phase III clinical trials have begun for 6 novel vaccine candidates to date. These Phase III trials seek to demonstrate direct benefits of a vaccine on vaccine recipients. However, vaccination is also known to bring about indirect benefits to a population through the reduction of virus circulation. The indirect effects of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination can play a key role in reducing case counts and COVID-19 deaths. To illustrate this point, we show through simulation that a vaccine with strong indirect effects has the potential to reduce SARS-CoV-2 circulation and COVID-19 deaths to a greater extent than an alternative vaccine with stronger direct effects but weaker indirect effects. Protection via indirect effects may be of particular importance in the context of this virus, because elderly individuals are at an elevated risk of death but are also less likely to be directly protected by vaccination due to immune senescence. We therefore encourage ongoing data collection and model development aimed at evaluating the indirect effects of forthcoming SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

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