Arizona to host $12.5M CDC vaccine effectiveness center

By Nicholas Gerbis
Published: Monday, November 21, 2022 - 5:05am
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Seasonal flu cases are soaring, and COVID cases are surging; but booster rates are circling the drain, in part because of lingering vaccine questions and misperceptions.

Now, several Arizona institutions are collaborating on a five-year, $12.5 million Center for Disease Control and Prevention project to address some of those mysteries. The collaboration is one of only seven CDC-approved Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network Centers nationwide.

ASU, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Valleywise Health will recruit patients and gather real-world data regarding circulating COVID and influenza strains.

“When a company or anybody does a vaccine efficacy test through a clinical trial, that's run in a different setting,” said principal investigator Vel Murugan, associate director of research at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. “We are actually evaluating the effectiveness of the vaccine in a real-world scenario.”

The team will recruit participants from people who seek treatment for the flu. Those patients will be tested for influenza and COVID-19 infections, including which strain they have contracted.

“That’s going to tell us the effectiveness of this particular vaccine this year,” said Murugan. “This is what's going to tell us what variant is coming as more infections this year. It will inform us what kind of makeup next year’s vaccine is going to look like.”

The team will also examine how factors like medical history, location, age, gender and socioeconomic status affect vaccination effectiveness.

Part of the research will entail recruiting another cohort and following them before and after they receive vaccinations.  

“We want to collect some samples from them before they get the vaccine, and we will collect some samples from these individuals three to four weeks after they get the vaccine and basically look at the immune responses,” said Murugan.

He added that he’s intrigued by Arizona’s fast growth and history of high per-capita COVID rates.

“We think there is something in these geographic locations or the cohort of populations,” he said. “Something is going on that we want to understand.”  

Coronavirus Science Health + Medicine Vaccines