While the total number of people vaccinated for COVID-19 is widely reported, there are many important questions about the real-world effectiveness of the vaccines on different population groups, their impact of the disease transmission and how vaccines will affect the course of the pandemic that require access to crucial real-world data on vaccine delivery, infections and the health service response to enable detailed research to take place.
As of today, researchers can now start to work on answering these questions by requesting access to two critical datasets through the HDR Innovation Gateway – the England COVID-19 Immunisations dataset and the Welsh COVID-19 Vaccination Dataset.
England’s COVID Immunisation dataset is now available through the Office for National Statistics Secure Research Service and contains de-identified record-level data of people who have received a vaccination for COVID-19, including details of the type of vaccine and date of vaccination. The Welsh COVID Vaccination Dataset covers similar data for Wales and allows vaccine data to be linked to the other key health and administrative datasets available through SAIL Databank. These datasets are updated daily and allow researchers access the latest available information. Approvals to access the datasets will be based on the “five safes” framework to ensure responsible and trustworthy uses of health data.
Accessing these datasets ethically and safely will allow the UK’s health research community to understand the impact of the vaccine programme as well as inform the next stages of the vaccination programme. Ultimately using “data, not dates” to help the UK more quickly return to a post-pandemic world.
The rapid development of the infrastructure to support this access has been put in place by Health Data Research UK, the national institute for health data science, and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) working in partnership to lead the “Data & Connectivity” programme, part of the Government Office for Science’s National Core Studies. These studies are being informed by input from patients and the public to ensure access to and use of data have a defined public benefit.
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, COVID-19 Vaccines Research Data Infrastructure Group Lead:
“The UK has fantastic data resources; but it is linkages that are key to supporting researchers to do analysis of the data in a timely manner. So, this is an excellent and important first step on the important path of increasing our understanding of the impact of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
Alison Pritchard, UK Deputy National Statistician and Director General for Data Capability at the ONS:
“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. This is part of our wider work with Health Data Research UK to streamline data access and analysis and we are continuing to explore how we can make further improvements in the future.”
Andrew Morris, Director, Health Data Research UK:
“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.”
Professor David Ford, Director, SAIL Databank:
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. The SAIL Databank has been honored to play a full national role as custodian and in sharing data from across the UK, supporting over 100 separate analytical projects, as well as facilitating the use of COVID data on the virus and vaccination programme for the Welsh population. The work in Wales has been the result of unprecedented cooperation between the agencies of NHS Wales, Welsh Government, local governmental, and academic researchers, demonstrating the remarkable things that can be done when all have a single purpose.”