Infection-acquired versus vaccine-acquired immunity in an SIRWS model

Leung T, Campbell PT, Hughes BD, Frascoli F, McCaw JM

Infectious Disease Modelling 3: 118–135 (2018) [doi]

In some disease systems, the process of waning immunity can be subtle, involving a complex relationship between the duration of immunity—acquired either through natural infection or vaccination—and subsequent boosting of immunity through asymptomatic re-exposure. We present and analyse a model of infectious disease transmission where primary and secondary infections are distinguished to examine the interplay between infection and immunity. Additionally we allow the duration of infection-acquired immunity to differ from that of vaccine-acquired immunity to explore the impact on long-term disease patterns and prevalence of infection in the presence of immune boosting.

Our model demonstrates that vaccination may induce cyclic behaviour, and the ability of vaccinations to reduce primary infections may not lead to decreased transmission. Where the boosting of vaccine-acquired immunity delays a primary infection, the driver of transmission largely remains primary infections. In contrast, if the immune boosting bypasses a primary infection, secondary infections become the main driver of transmission under a sufficiently long duration of immunity.

Our results show that the epidemiological patterns of an infectious disease may change considerably when the duration of vaccine-acquired immunity differs from that of infection-acquired immunity. Our study highlights that for any particular disease and associated vaccine, a detailed understanding of the waning and boosting of immunity and how the duration of protection is influenced by infection prevalence are important as we seek to optimise vaccination strategies.