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Protecting the herd: the remarkable effectiveness of the bacterial meningitis polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines in altering transmission dynamics.

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  • 1Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center, 1440 Clifton Road NE, Suite 420, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia 30322, USA.


Interrupting human-to-human transmission of the agents (Neisseria meningitidis, Haemophilus influenzae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae) of bacterial meningitis by new capsular polysaccharide-protein conjugate vaccines (PPCVs) has proven to be a remarkable (and unanticipated) contributor to vaccine effectiveness. Herd immunity accounts for ∼50% of the protection by meningococcal serogroup C PPCVs, pneumococcal PPCV7, and H. influenzae b PPCVs. Nasopharyngeal carriage can be reduced ≥75% for vaccine serotypes; the decrease in carriage is correlated with disease reduction in unvaccinated individuals, and the impact of herd immunity lasts for years. Based on these data, models for using herd immunity in vaccine-based prevention strategies are underway for control of meningitis in sub-Saharan Africa. Although the immunologic basis of herd immunity and impact on microbial biology need more study, protecting the unvaccinated by altering pathogen transmission dynamics is a powerful effect of PPCVs and increasingly important in vaccine introduction, implementation, and evaluation strategies.

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