Skip to main content


Katherine O'Brien

Departmental Affiliations

Global Disease Epidemiology and Control

Contact Info

415 N. Washington Street, Room 563

Research Interests

pneumococcus; Streptococcus pneumoniae; clinical trials; American Indian; vaccines; RSV; respiratory syncytial virus; Hib; Haemophilus influenzae; pediatric infectious disease; child survival; pneumonia; vaccine; vaccine policy; modeling
Experiences & Accomplishments
Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health
McGill University
My interests center around the clinical, epidemiological, and policy aspects of vaccine preventable bacterial and viral infections of children. My primary research focus has been on the control of childhood respiratory diseases including with specific emphasis on the nasopharyngeal colonization, disease rates, serotype distribution and vaccine prevention of Streptococcus pneumoniae both domestically and internationally. In addition to my focus on pneumococcal disease control, is an interest in the epidemiology and control efforts (through vaccination of infants and mothers, use of biologics and risk factor reduction) for pneumonia, acute lower respiratory infections, meningitis and sepsis.  Pathogens of particular interest for me include RSV, influenza, group A Streptococcus and group B Streptococcus. Vaccine access to HPV and the policies supporting that access are an area of new interest.
My field work has focused on conducting large phase III IND trials of novel vaccines to control the above mentioned diseases, as well as phase IV studies of vaccine impact both domestically and globally.  I work with American Indian tribes to identify and assess interventions to reduce the disproportionate morbidity from infectious diseases in these populations.  Globally I work with researchers and public health officials in low-income countries of south Asia and Africa to assure that life-saving interventions are available and optimally implemented.  In addition to field based studies, my work has also included modeling of global burden of disease for these pathogens, strategic analyses that move research findings into the policy arena on the optimal use of vaccines, and more basic epidemiologic work on the role of pathogens and risk factors in the development of pneumonia.  
I serve as the Executive Director of the International Vaccine Access Center and as a Senior Advisor for the Center for American Indian Health.  Presently I am a member of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) advising the World Health Organization on global vaccine policy and serve on the Gavi Board representing the Technical and Research constituency.
Honors & Awards
2015: Maryland Women's Hall of Fame Inducte.
2013: Robert Austrian Award and Lectureship.
2011:  President's Early Career Award for Science and Engineering.
2008: Sabin Vaccine Institute, Young Investigator Award.
2001: CDC, Honor Award for outstanding scientific contributions to public health, Group B Streptococcal Prevention Team
1999: CDC, 1999 Nakano Citation, for the Haiti diethylene glycol poisoning investigation.
1998: Secretary’s Distinguished Service Award, Department of Health and Human Services
1997: CDC Mackel Award epidemic investigation which best combines epidemiology and laboratory work. 1997: CDC Group Honor Award for The Haiti Emergency Response Team
1997: Food and Drug Administration Group Recognition Award.For meritorious service in the investigation of an international public health crisis which was associated with the contamination of pharmaceuticals by diethylene glycol.
Select Publications
Selected from recent publications
  • O’Brien KL, Baggett HC, Brooks WA, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL, Howie SRC, Deloria Knoll M, Kotloff KL, Levine OS, Madhi SA, Murdoch DR, Scott JAG, Thea DM, Zeger SL. Introduction to the Epidemiologic Considerations, Analytic Methods, and Foundational Results From the Pneumonia Etiology Research for Child Health Study. Clin Infect Dis 2017; 64(suppl 3):S179–84.
  • Shi T, McAllister D, O’Brien KL, et al. Global, regional and national disease burden estimates of acute lower respiratory infections due to respiratory syncytial virus in youngchildren in 2015. Lancet. 2017 Jul 6. pii: S0140-6736(17)30938-8. PMID: 28689664.Selected recent publications
  • Gibson DG, Ochieng B, Kagucia EW, Were J, Hayford K, Moulton LH, Levine OS, Odhiambo F, O’Brien KL, Feikin DR. Mobile phone delivered reminders and incentives to improve childhood immunisation coverage and timeliness in Kenya (M-SIMU): a cluster randomised controlled trial. Lancet Global Health 2017;5:e428-38.
  • Barger-Kamate B, Deloria-Knoll M, Kagucia EW, Baggett HC, Brooks WA, Feikin DR, Hammitt LL, Howie SRC, Levine OS, Madhi SA, Scott JAG, Thea DM, Amornintapichet R, Anderson TP, Awori JO, Baillie VL, Chipeta J, DeLuca AN, Driscoll AJ, Goswami D, Higdon MM, Hossain L, Karron RA, Maloney S, Moore DP, Morpeth SC, Mwananyanda L, Ofordile O, Olutunde E, Park DE, Prosperi C, Sow SO, Tapia MD, Murdoch DR, O’Brien KL, Kotloff KL, PERCH Study Group. Pertussis-associated pneumonia in infants and children from low- and middle-income countries participating in the PERCH study. Clin Infect Dis. 2016 Dec 1;63(suppl 4):S187-S196
  • Grant LR, Hammitt LL, O’Brien SE, Jacobs MR, Weatherholtz RC, Reid R, Santosham M, O’Brien KL. Impact of the 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine on carriage among American Indians. Pediatr Infect Dis J 2016 Aug;35(8):907-14
(RAVIN) Rotavirus Accelerated Vaccine Introduction Network
Forecasting pneumococcal serotype frequencies to develop adult-specific vaccines
A phase II, double-blind, randomized, placebo controlled study to demonstrate the protective efficacy of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) Biologicals’ Streptococcus pneumoniae protein vaccine against acute otitis media when administered as a three-dose primary...
Etiology of pneumonia and burden of pneumococcal pneumonia in hospitalized American Indian adults
Identifying persistent vaccine-type invasive pneumococcal disease and carriage in American Indian communities during routine use of PCV13
PCV Impact study for Nepal (PneumoNIA)
Impact of prevention of RSV-associated serious respiratory illness in infancy on asthma in childhood: The RSV Prevention part II Study (RSVpII)
Maternal and Child Epidemiology Estimation (MCEE)
Sustaining Access to Vaccines in India (SAVI)
Vaccine Delivery IVAC Umbrella Grant (Multi-Project Grant)
Developing Bayesian analytical approaches to estimation of pneumonia etiology
PREVAIL: Pneumonia Research and Vaccine Impact League
PCV Technical Coordination with WHO
Estimating Effective Vaccination Coverage with Immune Markers
Using incentive based approaches to increase uptake of new vaccines & improve
PERCH: etiology of pneumonia in 7 African and Asian countries