The Minicommunity Design to Assess Indirect Effects of Vaccination.


We propose the minicommunity design to estimate indirect effects of vaccination. Establishing indirect effects of vaccination in unvaccinated subpopulations could have important implications for global vaccine policies. In the minicommunity design, the household or other small transmission unit serves as the cluster in which to estimate indirect effects of vaccination, similar to studies in larger communities to estimate indirect, total, and overall effects. Examples from the literature include studies in small transmission units to estimate indirect effects of pertussis, pneumococcal, influenza, and cholera vaccines. We characterize the minicommunity design by several methodologic considerations, including the assignment mechanism, ascertainment, the role of transmission outside the transmission unit, and the relation of the size of the transmission unit to number of people vaccinated. The minicommunity study for indirect effects is contrasted with studies to estimate vaccine effects on infectiousness and protective effects under conditions of household exposure within small transmission units. The minicommunity design can be easily implemented in individually randomized studies by enrolling and following-up members of households of the randomized individuals. The methodology for the minicommunity design for estimating indirect effects of vaccination deserves much future research.

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