Jennifer Nelson, PhD

Director of Biostatistics and Senior Investigator


Recent publications

Curriculum vitae (CV)




Research interests and experience

  • Biostatistics: post-marketing drug and vaccine safety study design and analysis; secondary use and misuse of large health care databases for medical research; vaccine effectiveness study methods; sequential testing in observational data settings; methods to assess interrater variability
  • Immunization & infectious diseases: biostatistics; post-marketing vaccine safety study design and analysis; influenza vaccine effectiveness in the elderly; methodological issues in large health care database studies
  • Medication use & patient safety: biostatistics; post-marketing drug and vaccine safety study design and analysis; safety signal detection methods
  • Cardiovascular health: biostatistics; statistical issues in multi-site, longitudinal observational studies; coronary artery calcium CT scoring methods

Jennifer Nelson is a biostatistician with expertise in methods to assess drug and vaccine safety and effectiveness. She is particularly interested in addressing methodological challenges that arise in post-licensure drug and vaccine safety studies that use large observational health care databases.

Dr. Nelson provides national statistical leadership as the methods core co-lead and senior statistician for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s Mini-Sentinel Initiative, a pilot project to facilitate development of an active surveillance system for monitoring the safety of all FDA-regulated medical products. She also serves as methodology committee chair for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-sponsored Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD), a national collaboration involving 10 managed care organizations that has monitored immunization safety in the Unite States since 1990.

As part of both the VSD and Mini-Sentinel projects, Dr. Nelson works with Group Health Research Institute (GHRI) colleague Andrea Cook, PhD, to improve statistical methods for post-marketing safety surveillance studies of new drugs and vaccines. Their goal is to develop new sequential testing approaches that will rapidly and accurately identify adverse events not detected in pre-licensure studies.

In her vaccine effectiveness work, Dr. Nelson recently shed light on the limitations of the methods that previous epidemiological research used to assess the effectiveness of influenza vaccine in preventing illness and death in seniors. Her paper was the first to comprehensively describe the challenges in methods for assessing the public health benefit of influenza vaccine in the elderly; it was also the first to recommend specific new strategies to improve estimates of vaccine effectiveness. By sharing these statistical insights across a broad audience, she is helping bridge gaps between biostatistics and epidemiology and hoping to encourage widespread use of more rigorous methods and bring new, improved methods into the mainstream.

Dr. Nelson is an affiliate associate professor in biostatistics at the University of Washington (UW). She is also an invited member of the Vaccines Sub-Committee of the International Society for Clinical Biostatistics (ISCB), a group established to facilitate collaboration among statisticians working in vaccine research and disseminate statistical methods for vaccine research worldwide. In 2009, Dr. Nelson earned the VSD’s Margarette Kolczak Award for outstanding contributions in biostatistics and epidemiology in the field of vaccine safety. Before joining Group Health, Dr. Nelson served for four years as the deputy director of the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA) Coordinating Center at the UW.


Recent publications

Hambidge SJ, Newcomer SR, Narwaney KJ, Glanz JM, Daley MF, Xu S, Shoup JA, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Klein NP, Lee GM, Nelson JC, Lugg M, Naleway AL, Nordin JD, Weintraub E, DeStefano F. Timely versus delayed early childhood vaccination and seizures. Pediatrics. 2014 May 19. pii: peds.2013-3429. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Weiner SD, Ahmed HN, Jin Z, Cushman M, Herrington DM, Nelson JC, Di Tullio MR, Homma S. Systemic inflammation and brachial artery endothelial function in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA). Heart. 2014 Apr 8. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2013-304893 [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Daley MF, Yih WK, Glanz JM, Hambidge SJ, Narwaney KJ, Yin R, Li L, Nelson JC, Nordin JD, Klein NP, Jacobsen SJ, Weintraub E. Safety of diphtheria, tetanus, acellular pertussis and inactivated poliovirus (DTaP-IPV) vaccine. Vaccine. 2014 Mar 31. pii: S0264-410X(14)00432-0. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2014.03.063. [Epub ahead of print]. PubMed

Glanz JM, Narwaney KJ, Newcomer SR, Daley MF, Hambidge SJ, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Lee GM, Nelson JC, Naleway AL, Nordin JD, Lugg MM, Weintraub ES. Association between undervaccination with diphtheria, tetanus toxoids, and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine and risk of pertussis infection in children 3 to 36 months of age. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Nov;167(11):1060-4. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.2353. Epub 2013 Sep 9. PubMed

Jackson ML, Yu O, Nelson JC, Naleway A, Belongia EA, Baxter R, Narwaney K, Jacobsen SJ, Shay DK, Jackson LA. Further evidence for bias in observational studies of influenza vaccine effectiveness: the 2009 Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 Oct 15;178(8):1327-36. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt124. Epub 2013 Aug 26. PubMed

Dublin S, Baldwin E, Walker RL, Christensen LM, Haug PJ, Jackson ML, Nelson JC, Ferraro J, Carrell D, Chapman WW. Natural language processing to identify pneumonia from radiology reports. Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2013 Aug;22(8):834-41. doi: 10.1002/pds.3418. Epub 2013 Apr 1. PubMed

Nelson JC, Marsh T, Lumley T, Larson EB, Jackson LA, Jackson ML; Vaccine Safety Datalink Team. Validation sampling can reduce bias in health care database studies: an illustration using influenza vaccination effectiveness. J Clin Epidemiol. 2013 Aug;66(8 Suppl):S110-21. doi: 10.1016/j.jclinepi.2013.01.015. PubMed

Jackson ML, Nelson JC. The test-negative design for estimating influenza vaccine effectiveness. Vaccine. 2013 Apr 19;31(17):2165-8. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2013.02.053. Epub 2013 Mar 13. PubMed

Glanz JM, Newcomer SR, Narwaney KJ, Hambidge SJ, Daley MF, Wagner NM, McClure DL, Xu S, Rowhani-Rahbar A, Lee GM, Nelson JC, Donahue JG, Naleway AL, Nordin JD, Lugg MM, Weintraub ES. A population-based cohort study of undervaccination in 8 managed care organizations across the United States. JAMA Pediatr. 2013 Mar 1;167(3):274-81. doi: 10.1001/jamapediatrics.2013.502. Epub 2013 Jan 21. PubMed

Jackson LA, Peterson D, Nelson JC, Marcy SM, Naleway AL, Nordin JD, Donahue JG, Hambidge SJ, Balsbaugh C, Baxter R, Marsh T, Madziwa L, Weintraub E. Vaccination site and risk of local reactions in children 1 through 6 years of age. Pediatrics. 2013 Feb;131(2):283-9. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2617. Epub 2013 Jan 14. PubMed

To view more publications, please see Dr. Nelson's CV.