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This month’s winning publication was “Interim findings from first-dose mass COVID-19 vaccination roll-out and COVID-19 hospital admissions in Scotland: a national prospective cohort study”, co-authored by Vasileiou et al. on behalf of Public Health Scotland and the EAVE II Collaborators, including multiple HDR UK members. This study used patient data from over 5.4 million people in Scotland to investigate the association between mass rollout of the first doses of COVID-19 vaccines and risk of hospital admissions due to COVID-19. The aim of the study was to gather evidence and assess whether COVID-19 vaccines are effective at reducing hospital admissions following the first dose, at the population level in a real-world setting.

This represents the first analysis of COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness of an entire nation after a single dose of vaccine. They showed that a single dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was associated with a vaccine effect of 91% at 28-34 days after vaccination and 88% in the Oxford-Astrazeneca vaccine. These findings support the clinical trial findings and provide important evidence for the continued mass roll-out of first doses of COVID-19 vaccines, in that they suggest that these vaccines are associated with substantial reductions in risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation among people most vulnerable to severe outcomes. Vasileiou et al. made use of linked vaccine, primary care, laboratory testing, hospital admission and mortality data from the Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 (EAVE II) database.

The committee scored this study highly across various domains, including team science and scale. A strong national team of collaborators worked to bring together the study, and the dataset covered millions of people – around 99% of Scotland’s entire population. Open science was also a strength of this study, with the authors making their analysis code publicly available as well as a data dictionary covering the datasets used. The public and patient impact of the study, in providing evidence for the ongoing UK-wide COVID-19 vaccination drive, is also noteworthy.

The authorship team is comprised of multiple HDR UK members, in addition to HDR UK being credited as a primary funder of the study. BREATHE (The Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health) is also credited as a funder of the EAVE II collaboration.

A follow up correspondence to this paper was recently published, called “SARS-CoV-2 Delta VOC in Scotland: demographics, risk of hospital admission, and vaccine effectiveness”, wherein the EAVE II collaboration assessed the effect of the Delta variant of concern on the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in Scotland. They concluded that there is evidence that the Delta variant does increase risk of hospital admission in high-risk populations and that, while still effective at reducing risk of admission, both COVID-19 vaccines showed diminished effectiveness when compared with previously dominant strain of the virus. This additional publication highlights the importance of the EAVE II collaboration in delivering observational evidence related to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

HDR UK’s Early Career Committee would like to congratulate and commend this team for their contribution to HDR UK’s vision of uniting the UK’s health data to enable discoveries that improve people’s lives.