• Link-Gelles R, Westreich D, Aiello AE, Shang N, Weber DJ, Holtzman C, Scherzinger K, Reingold A, Schaffner W, Harrison LH, Rosen JB, Petit S, Farley M, Thomas A, Eason J, Wigen C, Barnes M, Thomas O, Zansky S, Beall B, Whitney CG, Moore MR. Bias with respect to socioeconomic status: A closer look at zip code matching in a pneumococcal vaccine effectiveness study. SSM - population health. 2016 Dec;2. 587-594. PMID: 27668279 [PubMed]. PMCID: PMC5033249. NIHMSID: HHSPA816129.


In 2010, 13-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) was introduced in the US for prevention of invasive pneumococcal disease in children. Individual-level socioeconomic status (SES) is a potential confounder of the estimated effectiveness of PCV13 and is often controlled for in observational studies using zip code as a proxy. We assessed the utility of zip code matching for control of SES in a post-licensure evaluation of the effectiveness of PCV13 (calculated as [1-matched odds ratio]*100). We used a directed acyclic graph to identify subsets of confounders and collected SES variables from birth certificates, geo-coding, a parent interview, and follow-up with medical providers. Cases tended to be more affluent than eligible controls (for example, 48.3% of cases had private insurance vs. 44.6% of eligible controls), but less affluent than enrolled controls (52.9% of whom had private insurance). Control of confounding subsets, however, did not result in a meaningful change in estimated vaccine effectiveness (original estimate: 85.1%, 95% CI 74.8-91.9%; adjusted estimate: 82.5%, 95% CI 65.6-91.1%). In the context of a post-licensure vaccine effectiveness study, zip code appears to be an adequate, though not perfect, proxy for individual SES.