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Open Access Research article

Invasive meningococcal disease epidemiology and control measures: a framework for evaluation

J Jaime Caro12*, Jörgen Möller3, Denis Getsios4, L Coudeville5, Wissam El-Hadi6, Catherine Chevat5, Van Hung Nguyen5 and Ingrid Caro7

Author Affiliations

1 Caro Research Institute, 336 Baker, Concord, MA, USA

2 Division of General Internal Medicine and Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Occupational Health, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

3 Caro Research Institute, Vaggarpsvagen 11, SE24193 Eslov, Sweden

4 Caro Research Institute, 6415 Seaforth Street, Halifax, NS B3L 1R4, Canada

5 sanofi pasteur, 2 Ave du Pont Pasteur, 69367 Lyon cedex 07, Lyon, France

6 sanofi-aventis Canada Inc., Laval, Quebec, Canada

7 Caro Research Institute, 185 Dorval Ave., Montreal, Quebec, H9S 5J9, Canada

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:130  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-130

Published: 29 June 2007



Meningococcal disease can have devastating consequences. As new vaccines emerge, it is necessary to assess their impact on public health. In the absence of long-term real world data, modeling the effects of different vaccination strategies is required. Discrete event simulation provides a flexible platform with which to conduct such evaluations.


A discrete event simulation of the epidemiology of invasive meningococcal disease was developed to quantify the potential impact of implementing routine vaccination of adolescents in the United States with a quadrivalent conjugate vaccine protecting against serogroups A, C, Y, and W-135. The impact of vaccination is assessed including both the direct effects on individuals vaccinated and the indirect effects resulting from herd immunity. The simulation integrates a variety of epidemiologic and demographic data, with core information on the incidence of invasive meningococcal disease and outbreak frequency derived from data available through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Simulation of the potential indirect benefits of vaccination resulting from herd immunity draw on data from the United Kingdom, where routine vaccination with a conjugate vaccine has been in place for a number of years. Cases of disease are modeled along with their health consequences, as are the occurrence of disease outbreaks.


When run without a strategy of routine immunization, the simulation accurately predicts the age-specific incidence of invasive meningococcal disease and the site-specific frequency of outbreaks in the Unite States. 2,807 cases are predicted annually, resulting in over 14,000 potential life years lost due to invasive disease. In base case analyses of routine vaccination, life years lost due to infection are reduced by over 45% (to 7,600) when routinely vaccinating adolescents 12 years of age at 70% coverage. Sensitivity analyses indicate that herd immunity plays an important role when this population is targeted for vaccination. While 1,100 cases are avoided annually when herd immunity effects are included, in the absence of any herd immunity, the number of cases avoided with routine vaccination falls to 380 annually. The duration of vaccine protection also strongly influences results.


In the absence of appropriate real world data on outcomes associated with large-scale vaccination programs, decisions on optimal immunization strategies can be aided by discrete events simulations such as the one described here. Given the importance of herd immunity on outcomes associated with routine vaccination, published estimates of the economic efficiency of routine vaccination with a quadrivalent conjugate vaccine in the United States may have considerably underestimated the benefits associated with a policy of routine immunization of adolescents.