Reactive vaccination in the presence of disease hotspots
Reactive vaccination has recently been adopted as an outbreak response tool for cholera and other infectious diseases. Owing to the global shortage of oral cholera vaccine, health officials must quickly decide who and where to distribute limited vaccine. Targeted vaccination in transmission hotspots (i.e. areas with high transmission efficiency) may be a potential approach to efficiently allocate vaccine, however its effectiveness will likely be context-dependent. We compared strategies for allocating vaccine across multiple areas with heterogeneous transmission efficiency. We constructed metapopulation models of a cholera-like disease and compared simulated epidemics where: vaccine is targeted at areas of high or low transmission efficiency, where vaccine is distributed across the population, and where no vaccine is used. We find that connectivity between populations, transmission efficiency, vaccination timing and the amount of vaccine available all shape the performance of different allocation strategies. In highly connected settings (e.g. cities) when vaccinating early in the epidemic, targeting limited vaccine at transmission hotspots is often optimal. Once vaccination is delayed, targeting the hotspot is rarely optimal, and strategies that either spread vaccine between areas or those targeted at non-hotspots will avert more cases. Although hotspots may be an intuitive outbreak control target, we show that, in many situations, the hotspot-epidemic proceeds so fast that hotspot-targeted reactive vaccination will prevent relatively few cases, and vaccination shared across areas where transmission can be sustained is often best.