Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC Receives $5M CDC Grant to Join Vaccine Surveillance Network

September 29, 2016

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC will join a select group of academic medical centers nationwide that survey for communicable diseases in children and evaluate vaccine effectiveness. The data collected and studies conducted will help detect emerging disease outbreaks and be used to make health policy decisions regarding vaccination and investment in drug development.

Through a $5 million, five-year grant from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Children’s will become a New Vaccine Surveillance Network (NVSN) site and collect information on respiratory and gastrointestinal viruses circulating in Allegheny County.

“There are few or no effective antivirals for these viruses, and therefore vaccination is the most promising intervention,” said John V. Williams, M.D., chief, Division of Infectious Diseases at Children’s and principal investigator of the new NVSN site. “Active disease surveillance is necessary to establish the effectiveness of existing vaccines and provide the data needed to guide policymakers and pharmaceutical industries in the development of new vaccines. We intend to provide that critical information.”

Acute respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses that include respiratory syncytial virus, human metapneumovirus, and influenza and may interfere with normal breathing. Acute gastroenteritis is caused by viruses including rotavirus and can cause diarrhea and dehydration.

“Together these are the leading causes of disease among children in the U.S. and globally,” said Marian Michaels, M.D., M.P.H., pediatric infectious disease physician at Children’s and co-principal investigator of the new NVSN site. “These infections can require hospitalization and can be deadly. They also are quite costly, both in terms of treatment as well is indirect costs, including parental leave from work.”

As the only major provider of pediatric inpatient and emergency department care in Allegheny County and the surrounding region, Children’s offers an ideal site to conduct the population-based research needed to determine what viruses are circulating and whether any existing vaccines are working against them.

The Children’s site of the NVSN has three aims:

  • Evaluate the effectiveness and impact of current or upcoming vaccines, and other proactive disease prevention strategies. Analyze the results to inform pediatric vaccine-related policies.
  • Actively assess the burden of acute gastroenteritis and acute respiratory illness by voluntarily enrolling children seen at the hospital, along with healthy children enrolled at well-child visits, and performing laboratory tests to confirm or rule out viral infection.
  • Gain new insights into the evolution and transmission of pediatric diseases, the impact of vaccines on targeted and vulnerable populations, and the socioeconomic and microbiological factors potentially relevant to public health interventions.

The NVSN has been funded by the CDC since 2000, becoming a core component of national influenza surveillance. The University of Pittsburgh’s Vaccination Research Group provides additional information on a broader, primarily adult population of people seen at UPMC outpatient facilities for potential influenza.

Additional investigators of the Children’s NVSN site include Robert Hickey, M.D., and Judith Martin, M.D., both of Children’s; Bala Goundappa, Ph.D., and Heather Eng, of Pitt’s Graduate School of Public Health.