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CFRI’s Vaccine Evaluation Centre: 25 years of protecting children against disease

July 05, 2013
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Since the Vaccine Evaluation Centre (VEC) was founded as the first of its kind in Canada in 1988, the centre’s investigators have completed over 225 research studies with findings that have contributed towards developing new vaccines, improving vaccine safety, and refining public immunization programs.

VEC co-founder Dr. David Scheifele estimates that since the 1996 implementation of vaccines against a type of bacteria called Hib – a bacteria that was the leading cause of meningitis and an important cause of blood, skin, lung and serious throat infections – over 510 cases of spinal meningitis have been avoided at BC Children’s Hospital and at least 75 children have been spared from infection-related deafness or brain injury. The VEC was involved in nearly all of the studies that supported Canadian licensure of these vaccines as well as tracking the subsequent success of vaccine use across the country. 

Historically, BC Children’s Hospital had between 45-50 Hib case admissions annually, which accounted for over 450 bed-days of required care. Of those, 60 per cent (approximately 30 cases per year) involved meningitis, with the others involving sepsis, bone and joint infections, pneumonias and throat infections needing intensive care. Fortunately, it has been over a decade since the hospital’s last case of Hib, and controlling these infections has permanently freed 1.5 hospital beds for use by other patients.

Recognized as a leading infectious diseases and vaccine expert in Canada, Dr. Scheifele was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in December 2012 for his contributions to improving health care through the prevention of infectious disease. Dr. Scheifele has made substantial contributions to patient care, medical education, vaccine programs and vaccine research during his 35-year career as an academic clinician-scientist.

Under Dr. Scheifele’s leadership, the VEC continues its policy-shaping research with activities in the following areas:
  • Monitoring hospital admissions for vaccine-preventable diseases such as influenza, pneumococcal, and chickenpox.
  • Studying the safety and effectiveness of vaccines under development.
  • Partnering with government agencies to monitor the safety and effectiveness of new vaccines introduced into vaccine programs.
  • Partnering with government agencies to monitor the impact of new immunization programs.

Dr. Scheifele is a CFRI Senior Clinician Scientist and a Professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of British Columbia (UBC). He has been recognized with many awards and honours including the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, the CFRI Outstanding Investigator Award, the UBC Killam Prize for Teaching and the Alan Ross Award for Distinguished Career Achievement from the Canadian Paediatric Society. 

Dr. Scheifele is the data centre chief for the IMPACT program, which monitors vaccine safety and preventable disease control at 12 pediatric centres across Canada, and he is a co-leader of the Public Health Agency of Canada / Canadian Institutes of Health Research Influenza Research Network. Dr. Scheifele recently contributed to The Encyclopedia of Early Childhood Development, published April 2013.