Vaccines’ real-world effectiveness studied with $12.5 million grant from CDC

Dec. 16, 2022
Researchers will investigate vaccine efficacy; immune response to flu, COVID-19.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) totaling $12.5 million to investigate the real-world effectiveness of influenza and COVID-19 vaccines and the immune response to infection and vaccination against these two illnesses.

Unlike a strictly controlled clinical trial, this research is aimed at understanding how vaccination strategies work for people living and working in the community, where they may not receive vaccines and boosters on a strict schedule, or from a single vaccine maker.

As part of the vaccine effectiveness project, the team will seek to enroll at least 5,000 participants in the St. Louis region over the grant’s five years. Patients — adults and children — who come to Barnes-Jewish Hospital, Missouri Baptist Medical Center and St. Louis Children’s Hospital with respiratory tract infections will be tested for influenza and COVID-19 and can choose to participate in the study. House said the investigators will collect data on participants’ vaccine history and general medical history and will follow them over time to collect data on any complications patients may experience from these viral infections.

The researchers also will perform subtype analysis and viral genome sequencing on viral samples from patients to identify and track new viral variants that emerge over time. These samples and sequences will be made available for further research through a national repository that is part of the CDC’s U.S. Flu Vaccine Effectiveness Network.

A second project will analyze immune responses to various COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. Led by infectious disease specialists Rachel Presti, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, and Jane O’Halloran, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine, researchers will collect samples from patients at specific time points before and after receiving a COVID-19 or influenza vaccine. The samples will be used to assess antibody levels as well as the responses of B cells and T cells, key components of the body’s immune system, to vaccination.

The study aims to answer key questions about vaccination, including how long and robust the immune response from vaccination is; how broad the antibody response is; and how repeated exposure to different viral variants impacts the length and breadth of B cell and T cell responses to viral respiratory infections.

WUSTL release