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Studies will evaluate COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness among health-care personnel

Part of national effort to evaluate those who were first to receive vaccine

by Julia Evangelou StraitJanuary 14, 2021

Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis has received a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to evaluate the effectiveness of vaccines against the SARS-CoV-2 virus among health-care personnel on the Washington University Medical Campus and across BJC HealthCare. The study, which includes 16 sites across the country, will allow for the rapid evaluation of these vaccines in a real-world setting with high exposure to the virus.

The project is part of a national effort to evaluate vaccine effectiveness in front-line health-care personnel who have been among the first to receive the new vaccines after approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA granted emergency use authorizations to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine Dec. 11 and the Moderna vaccine Dec. 18.

At Washington University, the project to evaluate vaccine efficacy will be led by infectious disease specialists Hilary Babcock, MD, a professor of medicine and medical director of the BJC Infection Prevention and Epidemiology Consortium; and Jennie Kwon, DO, an assistant professor of medicine and associate medical director for infection prevention and associate hospital epidemiologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

In providing care for the most severely ill patients with COVID-19, health-care personnel and patient-facing researchers and support staff are at high risk of contracting the disease. In this study, Babcock, Kwon and their colleagues will evaluate how effective vaccines are at preventing laboratory-confirmed, symptomatic COVID-19. The researchers also will look at whether vaccines prevent severe disease and compare effectiveness among health-care personnel in different age groups, among those with pre-existing conditions and among health-care personnel in different roles, such as nurses, doctors and respiratory therapists. The researchers also will compare different vaccines to one another, if more than one is used on the Medical Campus and at BJC HealthCare.

The study is funded with a contract from the CDC’s Safety and Healthcare Epidemiology Prevention Research Development (SHEPheRD) Program organizations.

This project is one of several CDC grants to Kwon and Babcock investigating SARS-CoV-2 infection and health-care personnel. Another such study, led by Kwon, will evaluate the role of PCR testing for SARS-CoV-2 among asymptomatic health-care personnel who have been exposed to the virus, and the role of SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing among health-care personnel who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. The research will focus on WUSM and BJC personnel on the Medical Campus. Kwon’s goal is to learn whether such testing can detect and prevent transmission of the virus in the health-care workplace.

For more information about participating in these studies, contact Candice Cass, clinical research coordinator, at

Julia covers medical news in genomics, cancer, cardiology, developmental biology, otolaryngology, biochemistry & molecular biophysics, and gut microbiome research. In 2022, she won a gold award for excellence in the Robert G. Fenley Writing Awards competition. Given by the Association of American Medical Colleges, the award recognized her coverage of long COVID-19. Before joining Washington University in 2010, she was a freelance writer covering science and medicine. She has a research background with stints in labs focused on bioceramics, human motor control and tissue-engineered heart valves. She is a past Missouri Health Journalism Fellow and a current member of the National Association of Science Writers. She holds a bachelor's degree in engineering science from Iowa State University and a master's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Minnesota.