A study of nearly 2 million people vaccinated against the coronavirus has found that those receiving the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines had less of a chance of being hospitalized after a breakthrough infection than people who got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Truveta, a Redmond startup that has pooled data from 20 American health systems in 42 states, released the new findings Tuesday morning. They are based on an analysis of 1.7 million vaccinated people living in the United States. The company is hoping its data set, which is updated daily, will offer a more comprehensive look at the health of Americans as a whole.

“If we’re going to study our country, we need data from our country,” said Terry Myerson, CEO of Truveta, who noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has leaned heavily on studies from Israel so far to issue guidance on booster shots.

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The company found that 9% of both Pfizer and Moderna-vaccinated patients who suffer a breakthrough infection end up hospitalized. In contrast, the same figure is 15% for those who got the J&J vaccine. Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are based on a technology that creates mRNA vaccines, whereas J&J vaccines use a different and more traditional method called an adenovirus.

These findings line up with data that shows that J&J vaccine recipients exhibit more breakthrough infections, said Dr. Jessica Justman, Associate Professor of Medicine in Epidemiology at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health.

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Justman quickly offered a reminder that J&J still provides considerable protection, especially compared to those who are unvaccinated.

Truveta also found that people who have high-risk conditions such as cancer, organ transplants or HIV are twice as likely to end up hospitalized if they suffer from a breakthrough infection.

Of all the high-risk conditions studied, the company found that people with chronic kidney disease were hospitalized with breakthrough infections at the highest rate at 25%.

The study also found that less than 1% of fully vaccinated people experience adverse events from the vaccines, but people vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine showed 40% more adverse events than those that received Pfizer’s.

Truveta’s database includes approximately 35 million people, representing 16% of clinical care in the United States. However, the first study the company led was based on a subset of those people, totaling 1.7 million people, based on data it had “de-identified,” or audited for privacy and security, and who they knew with “high likelihood” were fully vaccinated.

The latest dashboard on breakthrough coronavirus infections available on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website says the health departments in 16 states that link their data with the CDC represent 30% of the U.S. population, which would amount to nearly 100 million people. However, the most recent data available on the website is from early September. Truveta said its clinical study is based on data as recent as October, but that it has the ability to refresh its dashboards daily.

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Justman said one of the biggest questions she asks about any data set is what the demographics of the population are. In its clinical study, Truveta provided information on age, gender, race and ethnicity of the 1.7 million people it studied. Approximately 41% were between the ages 18 and 49, 27% were 50-64, and 28% were 65 or older. Approximately 67% were white, 9% were Asian, less than 3% were Black and approximately 21% were unknown.

Myerson said the platform can only process the data that is self reported when patients see their doctor. 

Access to the platform will be sold to major health systems and life-science companies around the country. Right now, it is only being used by partners involved in early trials of the platform.

Ultimately, Myerson said the company will look to partner with the government to amplify the impact of its data set. When asked if the company planned to charge the government for access to the data or if they would share it with agencies freely, the company said, “we welcome conversations with the government to explore options.”

The company has raised nearly $200 million to date, largely from the major health systems that have committed to sharing their data with the platform. Microsoft, where Myerson previously led Windows, has also invested in the company. The amount was not made public. The company uses Microsoft Azure’s cloud technology to host much of its platform.

Navigating the pandemic
(Jennifer Luxton / The Seattle Times)

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