About the project
Find out more about our research: what we are doing, who we are working with, and why it is important.
The Vaccine Breakthrough Project is investigating COVID-19 ‘breakthroughs’ that happen after a person receives their third or booster dose vaccination. We are also examining the challenges facing the vaccination programme because of emerging viral variants, such as Omicron.
Vaccine breakthrough is a term used to describe the SARS-CoV-2 virus ‘breaking through’ the protection given by COVID-19 vaccines. The Vaccine Breakthrough Project is investigating COVID-19 ‘breakthroughs’ after a person has received either their third or booster vaccinations. We are including first-time infections and reinfections with COVID-19, as well as hospital admissions and deaths. The project is focusing on these two types of breakthrough as they are both of serious concern.
We are also examining the challenges facing the UK’s vaccination programme because of emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2, such as the Omicron variant (B.1.1.529).
Our researchers are looking at:
- how often these breakthroughs occur in the UK;
- what factors put a person at greater risk of experiencing a serious breakthrough event (e.g. their health history, demographic characteristics and ethnicity; how well their immune system works, whether they live in poverty);
- how these risks may differ depending on the number of doses a person receives, the type of vaccine they are given, and what variant dominates at the time of infection;
- whether we can predict people who are likely to experience a post-vaccine breakthrough.
We will carry out descriptive analysis to build a picture of which people have post-vaccine breakthroughs. We will consider these results in terms of people’s immune response after vaccination, using data from blood tests (‘serology’) where available. We will also analyse how long this protection lasts.
Following this, we will calculate the risk of experiencing vaccine breakthrough for particular groups, and create a risk prediction model. Finally, we will consider vaccine breakthroughs in terms of viral variant, vaccine type, and number of doses.
This project builds on research completed in the Data and Connectivity: COVID-19 Vaccine Pharmacovigilance (DaCVaP) project, which was part of the National Core Studies programme on Data and Connectivity. In Scotland we will examine data through the EAVE II project. We will compare results across the UK by working with our collaborators, using data stored in the SAIL Databank (Wales), Honest Broker Service (Northern Ireland), and ORCHID national surveillance dataset (England).
Despite receiving their third or booster dose, unfortunately some people still become severely ill or die from COVID-19.
This project will help us to best work out the groups of people who are most at risk of experiencing a serious breakthrough.
Our hope is that our research will help UK policy makers and health services know who is most likely to benefit from further rounds of vaccination, new treatments (e.g. monoclonal antibodies), or other interventions (e.g. shielding).