Vaccines & Infectious Diseases

“To combat infectious diseases, such as COVID-19 and influenza, we are comprehensively evaluating the safety and effectiveness of vaccines in current use, conducting clinical trials of promising new vaccines, and studying the patterns of how these illnesses spread.”

Lisa A. Jackson, MD, MPH
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Senior Investigator

Research overview

Vaccines save lives by protecting people against infectious diseases — polio, influenza, and pneumonia to name a few. Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute (KPWHRI) is working to protect communities through research to continually improve the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for infectious diseases of public health importance.

Central to this work is testing new vaccines against emerging diseases — such as COVID-19. In March 2020, KPWHRI gave the world’s first-ever injection of an investigational vaccine for COVID-19 in a phase 1 clinical trial led by Senior Investigator Lisa A. Jackson, MD, MPH. We continue to be at the forefront of efforts to understand and combat COVID-19. 

Successes over 3 decades of KPWHRI vaccine research include:

  • A large study of flu vaccination in seniors that found that the vaccine might not protect them from pneumonia as well as hoped
  • A “real-time” evaluation of the safety of the shingles vaccine in older adults across the Vaccine Safety Datalink network
  • Clinical trials of investigational flu vaccines, including ones against pandemic flu and bird flu, in adults
  • Studies to better understand and address vaccine hesitancy among families who delay or refuse to vaccinate their children because of safety fears, leading to outbreaks of potentially deadly illnesses such as whooping cough and measles
  • The biggest retrospective study of pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine effectiveness in adults, and the largest clinical trial on the safety of this vaccine
  • The pivotal clinical trials of 7-valent, 13-valent, and 20-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccines in older adults 

Our current research projects on vaccines and infectious diseases include:

  • Clinical trials conducted by the Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit, funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and part of the Infectious Disease Clinical Research Consortium (IDCRC). Led by Dr. Lisa Jackson, the unit launched the world’s first trial of an experimental COVID-19 vaccine — the now-approved NIH-Moderna vaccine — and continues to test the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines and boosters. To learn more, see COVID-19 research at KPWHRI.
  • Studies of how infectious diseases such as COVID-19 and influenza spread through communities
  • Research to explore what types of communication and community engagement strategies are most effective at improving COVID-19 vaccine uptake among workers in long-term care facilities. Clarissa Hsu, PhD, is leading this research, which is being funded by a $4.75 million award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI).
  • Ongoing monitoring of the effectiveness of the influenza and COVID-19 vaccines by the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network, led by Michael L. Jackson, PhD, MPH, KPWHRI senior investigator, and funded by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
  • Studies of immunization safety through the Vaccine Safety Datalink project, supported by the CDC and connecting information in large databases maintained by 8 American health plans including Kaiser Permanente Washington
  • Methodological research, led by Jennifer C Nelson, PhD, and Andrea J. Cook, PhD, to improve the statistical design and analysis approaches used to address vaccine safety questions in electronic health record data settings

Recent publications on Vaccines & Infectious Disease

Jackson ML. Low-impact social distancing interventions to mitigate local epidemics of SARS-CoV-2. Microbes Infect. 2020 Sep 22:S1286-4579(20)30159-3. doi: 10.1016/j.micinf.2020.09.006. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Rogers JH, Link AC, McCulloch D, Brandstetter E, Newman KL, Jackson ML, Hughes JP, Englund JA, Boeckh M, Sugg N, Ilcisin M, Sibley TR, Fay K, Lee J, Han P, Truong M, Richardson M, Nickerson DA, Starita LM, Bedford T, Chu HY. Characteristics of COVID-19 in homeless shelters: a community-based surveillance study. Ann Intern Med. 2021 Jan;174(1):42-49. doi: 10.7326/M20-3799. Epub 2020 Sep 15. PubMed

Jackson LA, Roberts PC, Graham BS. A SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine - preliminary report. N Engl J Med. 2020 Aug 19;383(12):10.1056/NEJMc2026616#sa3. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2026616. PubMed

Balasubramani GK, Choi WS, Nowalk MP, Zimmerman RK, Monto AS, Martin ET, Belongia EA, McLean HQ, Gaglani M, Murthy K, Jackson ML, Jackson LA, Chung JR, Spencer S, Fry AM, Patel M, Flannery B; US Flu VE Network Investigators. Relative effectiveness of high dose versus standard dose influenza vaccines in older adult outpatients over four seasons, 2015-16 to 2018-19. Vaccine. 2020 Aug 12:S0264-410X(20)31032-X. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2020.08.011. Online ahead of print. PubMed

Flannery B, Meece JK, Williams JV, Martin ET, Gaglani M, Jackson ML, Talbot HK. Systematic testing for influenza and COVID-19 among patients with respiratory illness. Clin Infect Dis. 2020 Jul 20:ciaa1023. doi: 10.1093/cid/ciaa1023. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Researchers in Vaccines & Infectious Disease

Lisa A. Jackson, MD, MPH

Senior Investigator
Lisa.A.Jackson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Jennifer C. Nelson, PhD

Director of Biostatistics; Senior Investigator
206-287-2004
Jen.Nelson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Michael L. Jackson, PhD, MPH

Senior Investigator
206-287-2220
Michael.L.Jackson@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Andrea J. Cook, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-4257
Andrea.J.Cook@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Sascha Dublin, MD, PhD

Senior Investigator
206-287-2870
Sascha.Dublin@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Onchee Yu, MS

Biostatistician III
206-287-2389
Onchee.Yu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Robert D. Wellman, MS

Biostatistician III
206-287-2557
Robert.D.Wellman@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

Clarissa Hsu, PhD

Assistant Investigator
206-287-4276
Clarissa.W.Hsu@kp.org

Curriculum vitae (CV)

 

Affiliate researchers

Doug Opel, MD, MPH
University of Washington (UW) Department of Bioethics and Humanities; UW Department of Pediatrics; UW Medical Center

Adjunct researchers

John Dunn, MD, MPH
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington

Elizabeth Lin, MD, MPH
Kaiser Foundation Health Plan of Washington Family Practice;
Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute