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Exploring the reasons for low pertussis vaccine effectiveness in Ontario, Canada, 2006-2008: a Canadian Immunization Research Network study

Hughes SL, Kwong JC, Schwartz KL, Chen C, Johnson C, Li Y, Marchand-Austin A, Bolotin S, Jamieson FB, Drews SJ, Russell ML, Svenson LW, Mahmud SM, Crowcroft NS. Can J Public Health. 2022; 113(1):155-64. Epub 2021 Aug 23. DOI:

Objectives — Although pertussis vaccines have been widely used for many decades, a burden of illness persists. Resurgences in Ontario, Canada, have not been substantial in the past decade, but an outbreak of pertussis occurred in Toronto between 1 October 2005 and 31 March 2006. Previous Ontario studies found high vaccine effectiveness (VE) in the initial years post-immunization. In order to explore the impact of outbreaks and external factors on VE, we investigated pertussis VE during the period 2006–2008.

Methods — We assessed pertussis VE using a frequency-matched case-control study for the period 1 March 2006 to 31 December 2008. We used logistic regression to estimate VE by age, time since last vaccination, and vaccination status according to the Ontario recommended schedule. We compared analyses including and excluding cases from Toronto, and to two recent Ontario pertussis VE studies.

Results — We included 1797 confirmed cases and 7188 matched controls. Most cases were under 4 years of age during the study period. Pertussis VE was 3.8% (95% CI: − 21.0, 24.0) in the period 15–364 days following the last pertussis vaccine dose, and increased with increasing time since vaccination. Pertussis VE in the first 15–364 days excluding Toronto increased to 57.1% (95% CI: 26.0, 75.1), but the trend of increasing VE with time since vaccination persisted. Although VE was higher in older (6–11 years) than younger (0–5 years) children, it was lower at 12–13 years than after 14 years.

Conclusion — VE was lower in comparison with other studies conducted in Ontario, particularly in younger children. Various factors occurring during the study period may have influenced the results, including clinical testing of asymptomatic contacts, laboratory testing and methods and reporting practice, and a sensitive case definition. Further studies are needed to optimize methods for measuring VE to inform pertussis vaccine policy.