Covid-19 vaccination data made available for research


Data relating to Covid-19 vaccinations is now available for research into the virus.

The England Covid-19 immunisations dataset and the Welsh Covid-19 vaccination dataset is available upon request through the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway, an online resource that provides access to UK health datasets for research and innovation.

Over the weekend, the UK hit a milestone of 20 million people vaccinated for Covid-19, but questions about the real-world effectiveness of the jab remain.

This includes its effectiveness on different population groups, impact on disease transmission and how vaccines will affect the course of the pandemic. Answering these questions requires access to real-world data on vaccine delivery, infections and the NHS response, according to Health Data Research UK.

Andrew Morris, director Health Data Research UK, said: “The level of work and collaboration that has taken place to ensure the UK’s health researchers are able to access this crucial data safely and efficiently should not be underestimated.

“This is a true vindication for the ‘team science’ approach adopted by our all of our partner organisations. It also acts as a shining example for what can be achieved to enable discovery of and access to not just the data required to help us overcome this pandemic, but also of the UK’s rich diversity of health datasets to advance healthcare for all.”

It’s hoped making this data available through the Innovation Gateway will foster research into the effect of the vaccine rollout, and further our understanding of managing a pandemic.

Data available through the Gateway is de-identified record-level data of those who have received a vaccine, including the type of vaccine they received. They are updated daily to provide researchers with the latest available information.

Alison Pritchard, UK deputy national statistician and director general for data capability at the ONS, said: “It is great news that we’ve been able to help researchers access this important data.  Our Secure Research Service works to ensure that data from across government can be safely accessed by accredited researchers across government, academia, the private and voluntary sectors to strengthen our understanding and break new ground on important issues.”

Professor David Ford, director of the Wales SAIL Databank, added: “We have been proud to be part of this UK-wide response to the Covid epidemic, which has brought out the best in all agencies that work with data.”

Drive for data

The government’s recent white paper for health and care aims to improve data sharing across the health service and capitalise on work achieved during the pandemic.

Dr Ben Goldacre is leading a review into how health data for research and analysis can be used efficiently and safely. It will be conducted alongside a Data Strategy for Health and Social Care being undertaken by NHSX.

The strategy aims to set the direction for the use of data in a post-pandemic healthcare system and was recommended by health secretary Matt Hancock in his November 2020 “bureaucracy-busting mission”.

Dr Goldacre is expected to hand down his findings in April 2021.

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