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Data Collection on COVID-19 Vaccine Effectiveness for CDC Required Quick Pivot

Atlanta, Ga.  –  Abt Global, a global research and consulting firm, played a key—and rapidly evolving—role in collecting data for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) March 29 Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which showed COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective under real world conditions.

When CDC awarded Abt a contract to study COVID-19 in May 2020, vaccines were not on the radar screen. Abt’s work on the Research on the Epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2 in Essential Response Personnel (RECOVER) study focused on rates of symptomatic and asymptomatic infections, impact of illness, and other characteristics of the disease among healthcare personnel and first responders.

But when scientists produced vaccines with unprecedented speed, Abt pivoted and led a rapid, behind-the-scenes effort to gear up a massive and unanticipated data collection platform to determine the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

The pivot required prompt alterations to study protocols and data collection practices to adapt to a raft of new challenges, including:

  • Adding essential front-line workers to the list of groups to study  
  • Finding a way to rapidly capture timely vaccination data, including through participant self-reporting, electronic medical records, employee health records, and state and local vaccine registries
  • Tailoring vaccine verification methods depending on the state or local registry capacity
  • Evaluating vaccine effectiveness in preventing transmission to household members of infected participants
  • Adjusting data collection to accommodate single-dose vaccines.

The interim data showed that for 3,950 healthcare personnel, first responders, and other essential front-line workers in six states, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 80 percent effective for partial immunization (one shot) and 90 percent effective for full immunization. That translates into only three infections and no severe infections or deaths among 2,264 fully vaccinated workers.  

“The goal of our research is to have real-world impact, and this study should increase public confidence that the vaccine works in the real world," says Lauren Olsho, the study’s principal investigator and an Abt principal associate.

“We’re working with CDC on multiple studies of priority populations, so this is the first of many ways Abt will increase the public’s knowledge and understanding of COVID-19," adds says Project Director Danielle Hunt, an Abt vice president and senior epidemiologist. “The data we bring to the table can help produce evidence-based policies.”

Continuing studies will:

  • Help determine the duration of protection offered by COVID-19 vaccines, including their effectiveness against variants
  • Measure the effectiveness of newer COVID-19 vaccines, including single shot vaccines and/or boosters as they are introduced

Note:  If you would like to talk to Abt staff about how they established a nationwide COVID-19 research platform and rapidly adapted it to meet evolving needs, contact Stan Crock at

About Abt Global
Abt Global is a global consulting and research firm that uses data and bold thinking to improve the quality of people’s lives. From combatting infectious disease and conducting rigorous program evaluations, to ensuring safe drinking water and promoting access to affordable housing—and more—we partner with clients and communities to tackle their most complex challenges.

Stan Crock
(301) 347-5402

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