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An elaboration of theory about preventing outbreaks in homogeneous populations to include heterogeneity or preferential mixing

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  • Alternative Title:
    J Theor Biol
  • Description:
    The goal of many vaccination programs is to attain the population immunity above which pathogens introduced by infectious people (e.g., travelers from endemic areas) will not cause outbreaks. Using a simple meta-population model, we demonstrate that, if sub-populations either differ in characteristics affecting their basic reproduction numbers or if their members mix preferentially, weighted average sub-population immunities cannot be compared with the proportionally-mixing homogeneous population-immunity threshold, as public health practitioners are wont to do. Then we review the effect of heterogeneity in average per capita contact rates on the basic meta-population reproduction number. To the extent that population density affects contacts, for example, rates might differ in urban and rural sub-populations. Other differences among sub-populations in characteristics affecting their basic reproduction numbers would contribute similarly. In agreement with more recent results, we show that heterogeneous preferential mixing among sub-populations increases the basic meta-population reproduction number more than homogeneous preferential mixing does. Next we refine earlier results on the effects of heterogeneity in sub-population immunities and preferential mixing on the effective meta-population reproduction number. Finally, we propose the vector of partial derivatives of this reproduction number with respect to the sub-population immunities as a fundamentally new tool for targeting vaccination efforts.
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