The Bloomsbury Colleges | PhD Studentships | Studentships 2011 | Evaluation of Foot and Mouth Disease vaccine coverage, Effectiveness and Impact in Turkey and Iran
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Evaluation Of Foot And Mouth Disease Vaccine Coverage, Effectiveness And Impact In Turkey And Iran

Lead Supervisor: Prof Paul Fine (LSHTM)

Co-Supervisor: Prof Dirk Pfeiffer (RVC)

Vaccines are widely used in veterinary medicine, with mixed success. Improved livestock vaccination programmes could transform disease management, support future disease eradication and prevent the catastrophic losses that such diseases can bring, e.g. the 2001 foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak in the UK cost £9 billion. The objective of this inter-disciplinary project is to adapt approaches from medical vaccinology to improve the evaluation of vaccine effectiveness and population coverage for major animal diseases. The project will focus on FMD in the Middle East, where the disease is endemic.

Vaccination is the basis of FMD control in many countries, but there has been limited effort to optimise vaccination strategies. Coverage is known to be incomplete and not monitored rigorously. There is little information on field performance of vaccines in protecting against FMD, as vaccines are typically evaluated under standardised experimental protocols involving small numbers of animals and unnatural challenge or using in vitro assays. Vaccine performance in the field is only assessed by serological surveys, the value of which in measuring and improving vaccine effectiveness is unclear.

Analogous problems have been confronted by human vaccination programmes and there is a large body of experience on monitoring vaccine coverage, field effectiveness and programme impact. Such work has been crucial to the success of human vaccines by revealing problems of inadequate and biased coverage, poor vaccine quality, geographic heterogeneity in vaccine effectiveness, and providing a means to optimise vaccination strategies for particular population conditions.

The intent of this project is to adapt approaches from medical vaccinology to the evaluation of FMD vaccine coverage, effectiveness and impact. The project brings together expertise from LSHTM (vaccine evaluation), the RVC (veterinary epidemiology) and the Institute for Animal Health (IAH, the World Reference Laboratory for FMD). Co-supervision at the IAH will bring knowledge of FMD diagnostics, molecular epidemiology and vaccine matching that are hugely beneficial to the study.

Vaccine coverage will be determined by analysis of routine data from regional and national animal population databases. Records of the number of doses administered and results of serological-surveys for vaccine induced antibodies will be used in conjunction with demographic data and population modelling in order to describe the proportions of animals vaccinated, stratified by species, breed, region, date, age, numbers of doses and vaccine specificity. There will be emphasis on validation of vaccine coverage data. The relationship between serological status and vaccine history will be examined.

Vaccine effectiveness will be evaluated from data collected in outbreak investigations, using both cohort and case-control approaches. This is likely to begin with analysis of historical outbreak data, to determine the sorts of outbreaks most likely to be informative for vaccine effectiveness studies (as a function of species, population data, numbers of animals involved, husbandry systems and timing of notification and investigation). Cohort designs may be appropriate if outbreaks are identified early and followed up, or if outbreaks occur in herds with good records (e.g. large dairy farms), providing details of incidence of disease in animals of known prior vaccination status. Case control approaches may also be used in circumstances allowing confirmation of cases and identification of similarly exposed controls, matched for breed, age and sex and herd. There will be particular interest in outbreaks in herds which have been included in serological surveys, as these may allow better understanding of serological status as a correlate of protection under conditions of natural exposure and as a tool for evaluating vaccination programmes. Attention will be paid to issues of disease severity, as it is likely that vaccine-derived immunity differs by dosage history and wanes with time, under some circumstances providing only partial protection.  

Vaccine impact will be assessed by analysis of disease patterns by region and over time, as a function of vaccination campaign histories. Use will be made of serological data which are available for the past several years showing regional differences reflecting patterns of vaccine campaigns and of wild virus. Differences in disease incidence and protection among different sub-groups of the livestock population will be investigated to identify groups that are particularly susceptible to infection, resistant to infection, respond well to vaccination and benefit relatively little from vaccination.

There will be at least three field trips of at least 2 months:

a. Trip 1 - Preliminary data collection and planning:

Regional and national data on cattle populations will be examined, focusing on areas with high quality records, covering individual animals, their vaccination histories and outbreak details. Inadequately vaccinated groups will be identified and related to FMD incidence. Outbreak data will be summarised and described.

b. Trips 2, 3 …  - Field investigations:

Case-control and cohort studies will be performed during several (e.g. six) outbreak investigations carried out by the collaborating veterinary services with the assistance of the student.

In addition to revealing more effective FMD vaccination strategies, the findings will be used to propose recommendations for the planning and monitoring of FMD vaccination programmes, including protocols for surveillance and outbreak investigations. This will be adapted to provide a generalised framework for the evaluation of veterinary mass vaccination programmes.    

The candidate should be a fully qualified veterinarian, and have had academic training in epidemiology (e.g. at MSc level).  Additional experience e.g. in developing countries is an advantage

Key References:

  1. Chen R.T., Orenstein W.A., Epidemiologic methods in immunization programs, Epidemiol Rev. (1996) 18:99-117.
  2. Cox S.J., Barnett P.V., Experimental evaluation of foot-and-mouth disease vaccines for emergency use in ruminants and pigs: a review, Vet. Res. (2009) 40:13.
  3. Halloran M.E., Struchiner C.J., Longini I.M., Jr., Study designs for evaluating different efficacy and effectiveness aspects of vaccines, Am J Epidemiol. (1997) 146:789-803.
  4. Orenstein WA, Bernier RH, Dondero TJ, Hinman AR, Marks JS, Bart KJ, et al., Field evaluation of vaccine efficacy. Bull World Health Organ, (1985) 63(6):1055-68.

Further details about the project may be obtained from:

Lead Supervisor: Prof Paul Fine,

Co-Supervisor: Prof Dirk Pfeiffer,

Further information about PhDs at LSHTM is available from:

How to apply:

Applications must be in writing and must clearly state which studentship you are applying for.

Applications should consist of:

  1. Research Application Form (
  2. Research Applicant Reference Form (
  3. Equal Opportunities Monitoring Form (
  4. A full, original, transcript of the applicant's academic record
  5. Two-page CV, including names of two academic referees
  6. Please note: candidates must supply a 1,500 word research proposal stating how they would approach their chosen project.
  7. Your current postal, e-mail address and telephone number

Please send applications to:

London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine
Keppel Street
London WC1E 7HT
United Kingdom.

Tel: +44 (0)20 7299 4646
Fax: +44 (0)20 7299 4656

When applying, please indicate where you found out about this studentship (please state the publication title/ web address).

Closing date for applications: This studentship is now closed.