AZ HEROES research study receives $ 15 million to continue and expand assessment of COVID-19 immunity and vaccine effectiveness


Arizona University of Health Sciences

July 23, 2021

AZ HEROES was launched to assess COVID-19 infections among frontline workers through antibody testing. Pictured is a test site in Winslow, Arizona.
Kris Hanning / Arizona University of Health Sciences

A Arizona University of Health Sciences The study on the efficacy and immunity of the COVID-19 vaccine in frontline workers received a $ 15 million award from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to continue ongoing research for another year and expand to include children and focus on underserved populations.

“This phase of the AZ HEROES study will build on what we have already learned, expand our knowledge of vaccine effectiveness as more young people receive

Jeff burgess

Jeff burgess
Kris Hanning / Arizona University of Health Sciences

vaccine and provide vital knowledge as new variants of COVID-19 with increased transmissibility develop globally, ”said Dr. Jeff burgess, who directs AZ HEROES and is associate dean of research and professor at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

HEROES OF Z – Arizona Healthcare, Emergency Response, and Other Essential Workers Surveillance study – expands participation to include children aged 4 months to 17 years and focuses more on underserved populations. The study initially aimed to assess the incidence of COVID-19 infection, re-infection and immunity among healthcare workers, first responders and other essential workers.

Recent discoveries published in the New England Journal of Medicine have shown that people who contract COVID-19 even after vaccination are likely to have a lower viral load, shorter duration of infection, and milder symptoms than unvaccinated people.

Over the next year, researchers will continue to assess the effectiveness of vaccines, including different types of vaccines and adherence to recommended doses and immunization schedule. They will also assess the duration of vaccine protection, the extent to which vaccines prevent more serious illness in cases where vaccinated people are infected, and the extent to which a previous infection affects the effectiveness of the vaccine.

“This new round of CDC funding is a vote of confidence in the critical research that health scientists at the University of Arizona are conducting on COVID-19 vaccines and immunity,” said the president of the University of Arizona. Robert C. Robbins. “Dr Burgess has assembled a formidable team to work on the AZ HEROES study. The information they collect will benefit people around the world as we continue to find solutions to the global pandemic. This is another exceptional example. from the University of Arizona leadership and research expertise that makes a difference in people’s lives. ”

AZ HEROES was launched last year by researchers at Zuckerman College of Public Health and UArizona College of Medicine – Tucson, thanks to a grant of $ 7.7 million from the CDC. Early findings have helped establish COVID-19 immunity patterns over time in previously infected and newly infected people who have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of public health research, and our Zuckerman College of Public Health has shown impressive leadership in collaboration with our other colleges of health sciences and the CDC to collect vital data on COVID immunity and vaccine efficacy in a range of populations, ”said Dr. Michael D. Dake, senior vice president of the Arizona University of Health Sciences. “The AZ HEROES study showcases our expertise in public health on the national scene.”

Under CDC leadership, the AZ HEROES study expanded in December to include university students and assess the vaccine’s effectiveness. The research team has since published data in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report showing that Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are very effective under real conditions.

AZ HEROES researchers are also characterizing knowledge, attitudes and practices related to COVID-19 vaccines among critical workers and participant groups. As the study develops, they will continue to examine associations between these three factors and subsequent vaccination behaviors, including vaccine refusal, reluctance, or incomplete adherence to vaccination recommendations.

In addition to Burgess, the AZ HEROES research team includes: Karen lutrick, assistant professor at the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the College of Medicine – Tucson; Dr. Janko Nikolich-Zugich, Director of the College of Medicine – Tucson’s Department of Immunobiology and co-director of the Center on Aging; and Ed Bedrick, Kate ellingson, Dr. Joe gerald, lynn gerald, Purnima Madhivanan, and Sun Xiaoxiao at Zuckerman College of Public Health.

“I am very proud of our faculty of public health. This study shows how they collaborate to provide high-level research in times of crisis, research that draws on their complementary expertise and experience, ”said Dr. Iman Hakim, Dean of Zuckerman College of Public Health. “This research shows our capabilities at the national level. And what we learn from this study will advance the public health response to COVID around the world and save lives.”

AZ HEROES is always recruiting participants, including healthcare workers, first responders, and other frontline and essential workers, as well as students who have not yet been vaccinated, and now young people aged 4 months to 17 years. Participants with and without previous COVID-19 infection are welcome.

To learn more about the study, visit HEROES OF Z website.

A version of this story originally appeared on the University of Arizona Health Sciences website:


Paul N. Strickland