Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

BackgroundBetween September 2017 and June 2019, an outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) occurred in Louisville, Kentucky, resulting in 501 cases and 6 deaths, predominantly among persons who experience homelessness or who use drugs (PEH/PWUD). The critical vaccination threshold (Vc) required to achieve herd immunity in this population is unknown. We investigated Vc and vaccination impact using epidemic modeling.MethodsTo determine which population subgroups had high infection risks, we employed a technique based on comparing the proportion of cases arising before and after the epidemic peak, across subgroups. We also developed a dynamic deterministic model of HAV transmission among PEH/PWUD to estimate the basic reproduction number (R0), herd immunity threshold, Vc and the effect of timing of the vaccination intervention on epidemic and economic outcomes.ResultsOf the 501 confirmed or probable cases, 385 (76.8%) were among PEH/PWUD. Among PEH/PWUD and within the general population, homelessness was a significant risk factor for infection in the initial stages of the outbreak (odds ratios for homeless versus not homeless: 2.62; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.62-4.25 for PEH/PWUD and 2.39; 95% CI: 1.51-3.78 for all detected cases). Our estimate for R0 ranges between 2.85 and 3.54, corresponding to an estimate of 69% (95% CI: 65-72) for herd immunity threshold and 76% (95% CI: 72%-80%) for Vc, assuming a vaccine with 90% efficacy. The observed vaccination program was estimated to have averted 30 hospitalizations (95% CI: 19-43), associated with over US$490 000 (95% CI: $310 000-700 000) in hospitalization cost. Greater impact was observed with earlier and faster vaccination implementation.ConclusionsVaccination coverage of at least 77% is likely required to prevent outbreaks of HAV among PEH/PWUD in Louisville, assuming a 90% vaccine efficacy. Proactive hepatitis A vaccination programs among PEH/PWUD will maximize health and economic benefits of these programs and reduce the likelihood of another outbreak.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





7182 - 7190


Department of Statistics, University of Oxford, 24-29 St Giles', Oxford OX1 3LB, UK. Electronic address:


Humans, Hepatitis A virus, Hepatitis A, Pharmaceutical Preparations, Vaccination, Disease Outbreaks, Homeless Persons, United States, Kentucky, Vaccine Efficacy