Estimating the critical immunity threshold for preventing hepatitis A outbreaks in men who have sex with men

D. G. Regan, J. G. Wood, C. Benevent, L. Watchirs Smith, P. W. Robertson, M. J. Ferson, C. K. Fairley, B. Donovan, M. G. Law

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Several outbreaks of hepatitis A in men who have sex with men (MSM) were reported in the 1980s and 1990s in Australia and other countries. An effective hepatitis A virus (HAV) vaccine has been available in Australia since 1994 and is recommended for high-risk groups including MSM. No outbreaks of hepatitis A in Australian MSM have been reported since 1996. In this study, we aimed to estimate HAV transmissibility in MSM populations in order to inform targets for vaccine coverage in such populations. We used mathematical models of HAV transmission in a MSM population to estimate the basic reproduction number (R 0) and the probability of an HAV epidemic occurring as a function of the immune proportion. We estimated a plausible range for R 0 of 1·71-3·67 for HAV in MSM and that sustained epidemics cannot occur once the proportion immune to HAV is greater than ~70%. To our knowledge this is the first estimate of R 0 and the critical population immunity threshold for HAV transmission in MSM. As HAV is no longer endemic in Australia or in most other developed countries, vaccination is the only means of maintaining population immunity >70%. Our findings provide impetus to promote HAV vaccination in high-risk groups such as MSM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1528-1537
Number of pages10
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2016


  • Immunity threshold
  • men who have sex with men
  • reproduction number
  • transmission

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