While some may have thought the book was closing on COVID-19 when the first vaccines were released in early 2021, a group of researchers at Rollins knew several important questions about vaccination remained. That same year, they created the Emory Alliance for Vaccine Epidemiology (EAVE), based on the idea that developing a vaccine is only the first stage in its long life cycle.
“We’re bringing together all of the expertise around understanding the impacts of vaccines in the real world,” says EAVE co-director Benjamin Lopman, PhD, professor of epidemiology. For Lopman and co-director Natalie Dean, PhD, assistant professor of biostatistics and bioinformatics, the “real world” means looking at everything that affects how vaccines are used and how effective they are when first deployed on a widespread scale.
Facets include studying the dynamics of how a disease moves through a population and how to devise the best policies for dealing with it, along with vaccine hesitancy, the complex collection of motives and attitudes that lead people to delay or decline vaccination for themselves or their families. It also involves tracking vaccine uptake, the proportion of the population that receives their vaccination—not just for COVID but for a range of vaccines. Addressing these aspects requires asking questions beyond those raised in the traditional biomedical lab as well as bringing together a multifaceted team looking at vaccination issues from varying perspectives.
“There is both a biomedical mindset as well as a social and behavioral science mindset,” Lopman adds.