|Photo credit: James Gathany|
Source: CDC/Judy Schmidt
To get back into the swing of things, I thought I'd start off with a brief post about a grant opportunity from the Department of Health and Human Services' National Vaccine Program Office (NVPO). NVPO plans to award two grants of up to $250,000 each to support research aimed at improving the safety of vaccines. Vaccine safety research is something I can get behind. In fact, some of you may recall that a few years ago, I put my life on the line to support vaccine research by racing through 5km of zombie-infested countryside. (The zombies got me, but I recovered!)
So what is this grant all about?
The details of the grant, along with the full announcement, can be found a Grants.gov (funding opportunity number NV-VSR-15-001), but basically, NVPO is looking to partner with researchers on projects that will bolster our nation's vaccine safety enterprise. This is all part of Goal 2 of the National Vaccine Plan (PDF). Some potential areas of research are:
- determining the safety profile of vaccines in development
- developing or modifying existing vaccines to improve their safety
- projects that impact current safety monitoring of vaccines
- producing vaccine safety definitions for use in global vaccine research efforts
There are a lot of opportunities for innovative research. There are a lot of new prospective vaccines in the pipeline, not to mention the vaccines currently in use. Ensuring their safety, especially for those that are likely to be given to infants and children as part of child care and school entry requirements, is paramount. As technology advances, new opportunities arise to integrate those advances into how we conduct vaccine research and development. Could there be young, enterprising scientists that might develop new models that could predict possible adverse reactions before a vaccine enters clinical trials? Or maybe there are new ways to filter out residual manufacturing materials from the final products, thus reducing the amount of substances that might contribute to adverse reactions.
Once a vaccine is on the market and being used by the general public, how might we improve the identification of adverse events? Are there better ways to differentiate between real adverse reactions and events that are merely coincidental to the administration of a vaccine? One of these grants could help a state government develop a vaccine registry that could help track vaccine coverage and adverse events in real time, which could speed up response times if there is ever a problem with a vaccine.
Another aspect of vaccine safety is education. Educating the public, including doctors and nurses, about vaccine safety is another important goal of public health. There is a lot of misinformation out there, heavily promoted by the vocal minority of anti-vaccine activists. These grants could help a team of public health educators in their outreach efforts. There are so many different avenues of reaching people, from local, peer-to-peer learning, to widespread social media campaigns. A $250,000 grant could go a fair way to bringing science and facts in new, entertaining and engaging ways to those who need it most.
If you have a research idea that involves some aspect of vaccine safety and the relevant expertise to conduct the research, I encourage you to check out the details of the grant opportunities and send in your application. And if you heard about it from me and end up getting one of the two awards, email me and let me know.