Is Pharma Right About the Need for a COVID-19 Booster Shot?

The intrinsic role of real-world data to help determine the necessity for booster shots as new COVID variants emerge

With new COVID-19 variants surfacing, including the B.1.617.2 “delta” variant, there are pressing questions with no real scientific answers about the longevity of effectiveness of the existing COVID-19 vaccines and whether a booster shot will be required to maintain the body’s defenses. Pharma is now suggesting that we will likely need a booster. Government agencies, however, such as the CDC and FDA are pushing back, citing that the risks might outweigh the benefits.

In search for a more definitive answer, researchers are turning to real-world data (RWD) on vaccine administrations, as well as other clinical data points that can be leveraged to closely analyze the patient journey and continuously monitor patient outcomes to effectively answer this question.

With insights into approximately 50 million fully-COVID vaccinated patients in the US and nearly 115 million with one vaccine dose, vaccine manufacturers can leverage the HealthVerity data ecosystem to detect symptoms, patterns and known comorbidities that could flag concerns on the efficacy of pre-existing vaccines.

RWD sourced directly from retail pharmacy sources, wcan be accessed in near-real-time, in combination with 75 additional data sources within medical, EMR, lab and specialty pharma for unprecedented longitudinal views into how patients are responding to COVID-19 and its variants over time. 

What are COVID-19 variants and why is it important to pay attention to them?

The delta variant of COVID-19 first appeared in India in late 2020 and has now been detected in nearly 100 countries. This variant of the virus is reportedly 60% more contagious than the alpha variant B.1.1.7 that was identified in the UK at the end of 2020 and currently accounts for 50% of new COVID-19 cases in the US. More recently, the lambda variant has been identified in nearly 30 countries and as the main strain in Peru, which currently is the country with the highest mortality rate from COVID-19 infections in the world. 

Historically, it’s essential to compile as much previous patient history in a HIPAA-compliant manner as possible as new variants arise and we learn more about the effectiveness of the vaccines to protect against them. The CDC outlines investigating patients’ social determinants of health (SDOH) such as age, underlying medical conditions, which vaccine the patient received and whether the patient was infected with a variant in these breakthrough cases as a guide to further understanding the origin of reinfection.

Does the COVID vaccine really degrade over time?

The final decision on the necessity for booster shots will depend on whether or not vaccinated patients suffer from serious symptoms or hospitalizations that can be identified in RWD on breakthrough infections. By leveraging RWD to closely monitor outcomes and the potential resurfacing of symptoms of patients who have been either partially or fully vaccinated can provide early warning signs about vaccine degradation. It is still unknown as to how long the vaccines will last and whether or not a third dose of an original vaccine or a booster shot will be necessary. But with access to near-real time RWD, pharma manufacturers will have the ability to make educated recommendations for the health of the general public. Looking at vaccine data in a vacuum will not provide the whole story; vaccine manufacturers and even researchers within other therapeutic areas need to visualize a comprehensive view of patients to determine whether or not the vaccine itself is degrading or other factors are to blame.

Partnering with HealthVerity

HealthVerity has partnered with leading vaccine manufacturers and government agencies such as the CDC and FDA, to facilitate the research and analysis of US COVID-19 patients. By deploying its industry-leading patient identity resolution technology, HealthVerity Census, in support of HHS’ Privacy Preserving Record Linkage, HealthVerity continues to remain at the forefront of patient privacy and de-identified data linkage. Furthermore, HealthVerity Marketplace, the largest RWD ecosystem in the US, provides immediate access to more than 150 billion de-identified transactions on 330 million Americans. With vaccine data, in addition to lab, EMR, medical and pharmacy claims and SDOH, HealthVerity Marketplace contains patient-level insights and near-real-time RWD from more than 75 unique data sources. 

To learn how you can gain access to the largest de-identified and interoperable RWD ecosystem and discover patient insights regarding the future of COVID-19 that are just a click away, email us at or contact us!

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