Using wastewater to estimate real-world vaccine effectiveness

Early on, it wasn’t clear if vaccines prevented disease transmission via asymptomatic carriers

Vaccines for Covid-19 were developed in record time, thanks to a combination of decades of pre-existing research, expedited review processes, and an abundance of qualifying clinical trial participants. Clinical trials showed that the Pfizer, Moderna, and J&J vaccines dramatically reduced vaccinated people’s risk of hospitalization and death. This has made vaccines an incredibly important part of the Covid-19 response.

Large ad hoc studies were needed to study how vaccines affect asymptomatic infection

Now, we are confident that Covid-19 vaccination also prevents asymptomatic infection in addition to outcomes like hospitalization. However, this knowledge was not easy to come by. The current confusion about how effective the vaccines are against the Delta variant only emphasizes how hard it is to measure this aspect of vaccine efficacy.

Can wastewater be an independent measure of vaccine’s effectiveness against asymptomatic carriage?

Researchers have suggested that wastewater-based epidemiology could be used to inform the distribution of vaccines. Could wastewater measurements of SARS-CoV-2 also have provided information on whether vaccines are effective against asymptomatic carriage of the virus early on?

During a future epidemic, wastewater-based epidemiology could provide clues about vaccine effectiveness

Many questions remain unanswered. What can the WC ratio tell us, quantitatively, about vaccine effectiveness? How many samples, across how many locations, over what time scale would be required? How soon after vaccination programs began could conclusions about vaccine effectiveness be derived from wastewater data?

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Biobot Analytics

Biobot Analytics

We analyze sewage for viruses, bacteria and chemical metabolites excreted in urine and stool. We map this data, enabling smarter public health decisions.