Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen appointed professor of vaccination and infection control epidemiology

Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen appointed professor of vaccination and infection control epidemiology

Portrait picture of Patricia Bruijning, professor of vaccination and infection control epidemiology

Utrecht University and UMC Utrecht have announced the appointment of Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen as professor of vaccination and infection control epidemiology, effective June 1, 2024. This position will enable Patricia to continue her work in designing and evaluating optimal infection prevention policies through vaccination and other innovative strategies. Her appointment comes at a crucial time, as the world faces the dual challenge of emerging infectious diseases and an expanding portfolio of vaccines.

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This new chair is embedded within UMC Utrecht's strategic research programs Infection & Immunity and Child Health, as well as the cross-disciplinary accelerator program Healthy Living with a focus on prevention. The chair aligns with the increasing importance of scientific research on vaccination and infectious disease control at UMC Utrecht. In her new role, Patricia aims to contribute to evidence synthesis for vaccination and infection control policy through epidemiological studies and to solidify UMC Utrecht's position as a leading international clinical vaccine research institute.

Vaccines and Pandemic Preparedness 

Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen will leverage her large international network to initiate both controlled vaccine trials and real-world observational studies that address scientific questions relevant for making public health policy decisions on new or existing vaccines. One of the innovative aspects of Patricia's vaccine research is the study of effects on other diseases than the one targeted by the vaccine. This emerging field seeks to understand the broader health impact of infectious diseases and their prevention. By exploring interactions between different respiratory viral infections and the role of specific infections as triggers for other (non-communicable) diseases, her work will improve our understanding of the significance of such ‘off-target’ effects of infections and vaccines for health policy decisions.

Additionally, Patricia's experience with outbreaks such as Zika and COVID-19 will be instrumental in enhancing pandemic preparedness. For these outbreaks, she and her team developed several innovative study methods for rapid characterization of transmission and disease course. These were applied in several studies including on COVID-19 in households and schools and on arbovirus infections in travelers. Her methods will be expanded and developed into research tools for application in new epidemics, to monitor disease spread and the effect of infection control interventions and vaccination. Such ready-to-act research infrastructure is crucial for successful containment strategies.

Short biography 

Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen, born in 1974, is a pediatrician and epidemiologist renowned for her research on vaccine preventable diseases and emerging infectious diseases. She performed her PhD research on the rotavirus, a virus which is responsible for diarrhea in young children. Vaccination against rotavirus was implemented in the Dutch immunization programme in 2024. She was the principal investigator of several large-scale vaccine studies, including those on rotavirus, influenza, pneumococcal, and COVID-19 vaccines. Her work has significantly influenced vaccine advisory statements by the Dutch Health Counsel and shaped clinical guidelines and vaccine policy decisions. Patricia's interest in the dynamics of emerging infectious diseases, particularly the role of children in transmission, has earned her prestigious VENI (2015) and VIDI (2020) grants and resulted in her being selected by the government to lead COVID-19 studies in schools during the pandemic.

Her strong engagement in the translation of science into policy is further evidenced by her contribution to numerous vaccine guidelines, her advisory role for the Dutch Health Counsel committee on vaccination, and her involvement in several COVID-19 advisory committees. She coordinates and teaches MSc courses in infectious diseases epidemiology and vaccines and she is the chair of the Stichting Vaccinology Masterclass that organizes vaccinology masterclasses for healthcare professionals. She is frequently invited to talk about infectious diseases and vaccines on national television, radio and in newspaper or magazine articles. She has published >100 peer-reviewed papers and scientific reports.

A Vision for the Future 

As Patricia Bruijning-Verhagen steps into her new role, her vision for the future is clear: to actively contribute to the development of robust infection prevention policies and educate the next generation of infectious disease epidemiologists and health professionals. Her innovative research and commitment to public health will undoubtedly continue to make a significant impact on the global stage.

Working at UMC Utrecht





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