TY - JOUR T1 - Can Influenza Epidemics Be Prevented by Voluntary Vaccination? A1 - Vardavas, Raffaele A1 - Breban, Romulus A1 - Blower, Sally Y1 - 2007/05/04 N2 -
Currently, a major public health concern is the next influenza pandemic; yet it remains unclear how to control such a crisis. By using novel mathematical modeling techniques, here we predict the likely impact of voluntary vaccination programs on controlling influenza epidemics and pandemics. We construct an individual-level model of human cognition and behavior that includes two important biological characteristics: memory and adaptability/flexibility. In each influenza season, each individual in the modeled population decides, using memory and adaptability/flexibility, whether to be vaccinated or not. We combine our individual-level model with an epidemic model to predict the impact of voluntary vaccination programs. We found that severe influenza epidemics cannot be prevented unless vaccination programs offer incentives. Frequency of severe epidemics could be reduced if programs provide, as an incentive to be vaccinated, several years of free vaccines to individuals who pay for one year of vaccination. However, we found that a public health intervention program that focuses on vaccinating families is likely to increase the frequency of severe epidemics. Most importantly, we found that individuals' memories and adaptability/flexibility in decision-making are critical factors in determining the success of influenza vaccination programs. Our results are applicable both for the control of seasonal and pandemic influenza.