Since its emergence in 2019, SARS-CoV-2 has been a ‘moving target’, with different variants of concern emerging across the world, which may increase the transmissibility, severity and immune evasion of the virus.
Children and pregnant women, who remain among the most vulnerable population groups in the pandemic, are likely to have low uptake with respect to other groups, increasing the risk of variants of concern in these populations.
Monitoring these groups across regions is crucial given rapid changes in epidemiology due to varying country-level interventions, vaccine rollout, booster programmes and viral evolution, which have global effects.
VERDI aims to address these issues and research questions on the impact of variants of concern in pregnant women, infants, children and adolescents primarily through observational cohort studies. Its network will build on the well-established population-based cohorts of the partners involved across the world.
- To conduct joint research to better understand the epidemiology, treatment and prevention of variants of concern of SARS-CoV-2.
- To identify the transmission of new potential variants of concern in children and pregnant women, thus reducing the knowledge gap existing among these vulnerable populations.
- To exchange knowledge, build capacity and prepare for future response for effective control and prevention of COVID-infection, developing appropriate public policies (including vaccination policies).
- To accelerate and achieve research progress engaging with existing large scale, multicenter and international-facing European cohorts, augmented with long standing collaborating research groups from Europe and from other key regions in the world (USA, sub-Saharan Africa, Middle East, Asia and Caribbean).
To track and characterise SARS-CoV-2 genetic variations in pregnant women and children across the globe, enhancing our existing network of population-based and clinical cohorts of pregnant women and children in Europe and beyond
To rapidly advance the understanding of the effect of emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern, in particular concerning the potential differential effects of variants of concern on transmission, severity of COVID-19 disease and treatment, and vaccine effectiveness
To model the outcomes and impacts of variants of concern to inform the development of future vaccine strategies for children and pregnant women
To develop evidence-based strategic and robust recommendations for the effective control and prevention of COVID-19 infection including vaccination and treatment options strategies.
These main scientific objectives are underpinned by three further supportive objectives consisting in:
Actively supporting and facilitating data- and information sharing, across existing cohorts, globally, making use of the EU COVID-19 data portal where possibly
Coordinating and aligning efforts with the EU-funded projects ORCHESTRA, RECODID, RECOVER, and other research consortia funded through this call
Developing and implementing plans for the sustained operational readiness of the cohorts, in support of global research preparedness and response capacity for infectious diseases outbreaks of public health concern.
- Better understanding of the epidemiology, treatment and prevention of variants of concern of SARS-CoV-2 in children and pregnant women, due to wide and diverse range of data
- Improved clinical management of pregnant women and children affected by COVID, resulting in reduced morbidity
- Optimised public health measures informed by evidence
- Stronger links across relevant global cohorts and partners for prompt research response to emergence of variants of concern
- More coordinated research preparedness and response to emerging infectious disease threats.