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A team led by UCLA Fielding School of Public Health researchers has been awarded a $1.27 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study how expectant mothers made decisions about vaccinations during the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of those decisions.
“This is an opportunity to learn about and support informed vaccine decision-making during pregnancy, and document the health effects of maternal vaccination for infants,” said Dr. Annette Regan, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health assistant professor of epidemiology and principal investigator for the study. “This research will address important questions related to the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccination during pregnancy, and we hope results will help pregnant individuals and those planning pregnancy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues on.”
Regan, who also teaches at the University of San Francisco School of Nursing and Health Professions, will lead a team of researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas and UCLA, including Dr. Onyebuchi Arah, Fielding School professor of epidemiology, who serves as a co-investigator.
“This was a highly competitive process, and our team is very pleased the NIH recognized what each of our universities brought to the table,” Arah said. “One of the issues facing epidemiologists, during the pandemic and after, is reimagining the path forward for epidemiology and how consequential its role in the health sciences and in public policy could be. This is exactly that sort of important research.”
The award, formally announced by the NIH this month, will fund a three-year-long project building one of the largest U.S. pregnancy cohort studies of COVID-19 vaccination to date by combining national electronic medical records, insurance claims data, and Medicaid data. The initial FY 2022 element will total $511,677, with the remainder to follow in 2023 and 2024.
“There is a key knowledge gap, related to maternal and infant health promotion and COVID-19 vaccination, and our goal here is to fill it,” Regan said. “Public policy decisions have to be based on factual evidence, and I am extraordinarily grateful to be leading this effort.”
An epidemiologist and infectious disease expert trained at the University of Western Australia, Regan received her PhD in 2016 and has served as a vaccine epidemiologist for Western Australia’s Department of Health and an epidemiologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Regan has taught at UCLA since 2019 and USF since 2020.
A physician trained at the University College Hospital, Ibadan, and the University of Ibadan in Nigeria, Arah did his graduate training in Europe, where he received a DSc from Erasmus University Rotterdam and a PhD from the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Amsterdam. He has taught at UCLA since 2009.
The UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, founded in 1961, is dedicated to enhancing the public's health by conducting innovative research, training future leaders and health professionals from diverse backgrounds, translating research into policy and practice, and serving our local communities and the communities of the nation and the world. The school has 761 students from 26 nations engaged in carrying out the vision of building healthy futures in greater Los Angeles, California, the nation and the world.