Many people have questions and concerns about vaccines, how they work, and their efficacy and effectiveness. Because of these concerns, some citizens have even hypothesized that the vaccine is ineffective, or that it was rushed.
However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. The research behind the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines has been constantly evolving for years. The unsung heroes in this research process are epidemiologists that work tirelessly to manage public health concerns.
What Is an Epidemiologist?
Because of COVID-19, epidemiologists are finally gaining the spotlight they deserve as more people learn about what they do daily to keep the public safe. An epidemiologist studies a wide range of public health issues, including:
- Birth defects
- Chronic diseases
- Endemic communicable diseases
- Environmental and occupational health issues
- Non-communicable infectious diseases
In addition, an epidemiologist has the following responsibilities:
- Data Collection and Analysis: Using data to identify and assess known and unknown pathogens.
- Reporting: Sharing public health reports with primary care physicians and other medical personnel.
- Education: Creating programs to help people guard against public health dangers.
- Supervision: Managing and directing medical professionals as they conduct public health examinations and retrieve public health data.
Epidemiologists often specialize in a specific area of medicine, like bioterrorism or infection control. Furthermore, they are typically proficient in chemistry, biology, and behavioral sciences. They generally are critical thinkers and have outstanding interpersonal and communication skills as well.
Meanwhile, the demand for epidemiologists is rising across the U.K. This trend is expected to continue in the years to come, particularly in a post-COVID world.
What Is the Role of Epidemiologists in Vaccine Research?
Epidemiologists have been vital contributors to the development of vaccines for COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. They conduct efficacy studies to determine the impact of vaccines on global populations. These studies enable epidemiologists to analyze outcomes beyond disease attack rates.
In addition, epidemiologists can perform research to distinguish between a vaccine’s efficacy and effectiveness. Generally speaking, efficacy refers to the performance of a vaccine if all external factors were removed in a clinical setting. Effectiveness, on the other hand, refers to the performance of a vaccine in the real world. Both tests evaluate a vaccine’s ability in reducing the risk of contracting or spreading a disease.
During vaccine research, epidemiologists can perform both efficacy and effectiveness trials. Both types of vaccine trials can be beneficial, and it is ideal to conduct them following one another.
With an efficacy trial, epidemiologists can determine if a vaccine works and is safe. They can use the trial to determine if the vaccine causes any side effects. From here, epidemiologists may recommend additional efficacy testing or move forward with an effectiveness trial.
An effective trial allows epidemiologists to weigh the pros and cons of a vaccine and vaccination program. Epidemiologists can use the trial to assess a vaccine’s effectiveness concerning its potency. Furthermore, they can examine how certain groups of recipients respond to vaccine injections.
After an effectiveness study, epidemiologists can identify any challenges regarding vaccine storage and administration. They can then offer recommendations to ensure a vaccine is delivered in a way that minimizes risk and delivers optimal outcomes.
Why Epidemiologists and Vaccine Research are Crucial
Vaccines can help the body defend against pathogens — but there is no guarantee a vaccine will deliver the best results for every person every time.
Epidemiologists examine vaccines in detail. They have conducted extensive vaccine research during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to do so. Epidemiologists have used research to provide myriad insights that can help make informed decisions regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.
For instance, a vaccine debate is underway regarding the use of Covaxin or Covishield for COVID-19. Epidemiologists have researched both vaccines. To date, they have found that Covaxin and Covishield are equally effective to combat COVID-19.
Going forward, epidemiologists will consistently perform vaccine research into COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. Their research can deliver insights into symptoms of COVID-19 and other diseases. They can determine things like whether or not our gut biome can help protect us against COVID-19. Their research can even lead to tips, recommendations, and guidance to help people stay active and safe both during the pandemic and after it ends.
Even if infectious diseases unveil themselves consistently, there is no need to fear. Instead, find comfort that epidemiologists are constantly conducting vaccine research to improve public health now and in the future. As vaccine misinformation and other infectious diseases spread, make sure to listen to the experts, like epidemiologists first.