This brief summarizes the contributions of Kaiser Permanente Research since 2007 on the topic of vaccines. This includes vaccinations delivered in early childhood as well as those delivered to adolescents and adults.
Although the development of vaccinations against communicable diseases dates back to the 18th century, the creation of modern vaccines and their widespread use in the United States began in the 20th century.1 Today, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides national recommendations for vaccines, including pertussis (whooping cough) shots for pregnant women and numerous vaccinations delivered to children, adolescents, and adults.2
Although vaccination has largely eliminated diseases such as measles and rubella in the United States,1 these and other diseases are still found frequently in countries with lower rates of vaccine coverage,3 and the ease of global travel has led to cases in which unvaccinated people from well-vaccinated nations have contracted these infections.4 Moreover, diseases such as pertussis,1 varicella (chicken pox)5, and human papillomavirus (HPV)6 still occur frequently in the United States.
In addition to the direct effect of immunizing patients against dangerous diseases, vaccination also benefits society more broadly through so-called “herd immunity” effects. Through herd immunity, higher rates of effective vaccination for a given illness at a population level confer protection to unvaccinated individuals by making encounters with infected individuals increasingly rare. For example, increased uptake of the pediatric pneumococcal vaccine has been associated with decreased rates of the disease among adults, many of whom have not, until recently, received this vaccine.7,8 The level of vaccination coverage required to create herd immunity for a given disease depends on both the vaccine’s effectiveness and how easily the disease is transmitted between unvaccinated people.
Vaccination is an active area of study for Kaiser Permanente Research. Scientists across the organization have used our rich, comprehensive, longitudinal data to advance knowledge in the areas of understanding risk, improving patient outcomes, and translating research findings into policy and practice. We have published more than 700 articles related to vaccines since 2007.9 Together, these articles have been cited approximately 23,500 times.
These articles are the product of observational studies, randomized controlled trials, meta-analyses, and other studies led by Kaiser Permanente scientists. Our unique environment, which includes our fully integrated care and coverage model, lets our research scientists, clinicians, medical groups, and health plan leaders collaborate to contribute generalizable knowledge on vaccines and many other research topics.