COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness and variants in Nepal: study protocol for a test-negative case-control study with SARS-CoV-2 genetic sequencing.
Bijukchhe SM., O'Reilly PJ., Theiss-Nyland K., Gurung M., Pokhrel B., Kelly S., Acharya S., Maharjan S., Shrestha A., Pandey B., Lama M., Shrestha I., Voysey M., Eordogh A., Shrestha S., Feng ES., Li G., Shah G., Pollard AJ., Shrestha S.
INTRODUCTION: Inactivated, viral vector and mRNA vaccines have been used in the Nepali COVID-19 vaccination programme but there is little evidence on the effectiveness of these vaccines in this setting. The aim of this study is to describe COVID-19 vaccine effectiveness in Nepal and provide information on infections with SARS-CoV-2 variants. METHODS AND ANALYSIS: This is a hospital-based, prospective test-negative case-control study conducted at Patan Hospital, Kathmandu. All patients >18 years of age presenting to Patan Hospital with COVID-19-like symptoms who have received a COVID-19 antigen/PCR test are eligible for inclusion. The primary outcome is vaccine effectiveness of licensed COVID-19 vaccines against laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 disease.After enrolment, information will be collected on vaccine status, date of vaccination, type of vaccine, demographics and other medical comorbidities. The primary outcome of interest is laboratory-confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infection. Cases (positive for SARS-CoV-2) and controls (negative for SARS-CoV-2) will be enrolled in a 1:4 ratio. Vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 disease will be analysed by comparing vaccination status with SARS-CoV-2 test results.Positive SARS-CoV-2 samples will be sequenced to identify circulating variants and estimate vaccine effectiveness against common variants.Measuring vaccine effectiveness and identifying SARS-CoV-2 variants in Nepal will help to inform public health efforts. Describing disease severity in relation to specific SARS-CoV-2 variants and vaccine status will also inform future prevention and care efforts. ETHICS AND DISSEMINATION: Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Oxford Tropical Ethics Committee (OxTREC) (ref: 561-21) and the Patan Academy of Health Sciences Institutional Review Board (ref: drs2111121578). The protocol and supporting study documents were approved for use by the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC 550-2021). Results will be disseminated in peer-reviewed journals and to the public health authorities in Nepal.