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Jessica Atwell

Departmental Affiliations

Global Disease Epidemiology and Control

Contact Info

Research Interests

Infectious Disease Epidemiology; Immunization; Vaccines; Infectious Diseases; Respiratory Viruses; Maternal Immunization; Respiratory Syncytial Virus; Pertussis
Experiences & Accomplishments
Jessica E. Atwell, PhD, MPH is an Assistant Scientist in the Department of International Health in the Bloomberg School of Public Health and works with both the Center for Immunization Research and the Center for American Indian Health. She is an infectious disease epidemiologist who focuses on respiratory viral infections, and vaccine development, access and uptake.

Prior to earning her PhD in Global Disease Epidemiology and Control at JHSPH, Dr. Atwell specialized in identification and molecular characterization of outbreaks of enteric and vaccine-preventable disease. She has expertise in the impact of vaccine hesitancy on pertussis resurgence, and has worked with both Gavi and PATH on issues related to new vaccine introduction in low-income countries.

Much of her current research focuses on respiratory viral infections, specifically respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), specifically, and maternal immunization. She has worked to understand and address challenges to maternal immunization, both biologic and behavioral, including maternal conditions (e.g. malaria and hypergammaglobulinemia) that may impair transplacental transfer of RSV antibody, the complexities of defining severe RSV disease for clinical trial endpoints, and barriers to uptake of vaccines in pregnancy among American Indian populations in the Southwest. She also studies the epidemiology of RSV and other respiratory viruses among children in tropical and low-resource settings through retrospective and prospective studies, including active and passive surveillance platforms. She's also worked to understand the impact of severe respiratory infections in early childhood on lung function and asthma in older children.

Since early 2020, Dr. Atwell has been focusing on the Center for American Indian Health's COVID-19 response efforts in collaboration with Native populations across the US, which includes expanded testing, contact tracing, supported isolation and quarantine, surveillance, and data analysis for community-level decision-making.

She is a co-instructor of Vaccine Development and Application (223.662.01), Good Clinical Practice, a Vaccine Trials Perspective (223.705.81), and Current Issues in Public Health: COVID-19 Pandemic Response (550.844.01). She is also the Program Manager of the BMGF, DIH, and JHVI-sponsored student internship program, the Program in Applied Vaccine Experiences (PAVE), and the faculty lead of the Vaccine Journal Club.
Honors & Awards
2016 - Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society Induction
2015, 2013 - The Clements-Mann Fellowship in Vaccine Sciences, JHSPH
2015 - Distinguished Student Award, JHSPH
2014 - Young Investigator Award, second tier mention, American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
2011 - MPH Capstone Award for Outstanding Achievement
2007 - Superior Performance Award, California Department of Public Health
Select Publications
Selected publications from the last 10 years:
  • Atwell J.E., Karron R.A. Vaccination against respiratory syncytial virus in pregnancy.  Lancet Infect Dis. 2016 Dec;16(12):1330-1331.
  • Atwell, J.E., Geoghegan, S., Karron, R.A., Polack, F.P. Clinical predictors of critical respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) illness in infants and children: data to inform case definitions for efficacy trials. J Infect Dis. 2016 Dec 1;214(11):1712-1716
  • Atwell, J.E., Thumar, B., Robinson, L.J., Tobby, R., Yambo, P., Ome-Kaius, M., Siba, P.M., Unger, H.W., Rogerson, S.J., King, C.L., Karron, R.A. Impact of placental malaria and hypergammaglobulinemia on transplacental transfer of respiratory syncytial virus antibody in Papua New Guinea. JID. 2015. doi:10.1093/infdis/jiv401
  • Lee, L.A., Franzel, L., Atwell, J., Datta, D., Friberg, I.K., Goldie, S.J., Reef, S.E., Schwalbe, N., Simons, E., Strebel, P.M., Sweet, S., Suraratdesch, C., Tam, Y., Vynnycky, E., Walker, N., Walker, D.G., Hansen P.M. The estimated mortality impact of vaccinations forecasted to be administered during 2011-2020 in 73 countries supported by the GAVI Alliance. Vaccine. 2013 Apr:31:B61-B72.
  • Atwell, J.E., Van Otterloo, J., Zipprich, J., Winter, K., Harriman, K., Salmon, D.A., Halsey, N.A., Omer, S.B. Nonmedical vaccine exemptions and pertussis in California, 2010. Pediatrics. 2013 Sep 30:132(4) 624-30.
Evaluating Maternal Immunization
Impact of prevention of RSV-associated serious respiratory illness in infancy on asthma in childhood: The RSV Prevention part II Study (RSVpII)
RSV Suveillance in Native Americans (RSV SuNA)