Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Presenting the Case for an Immunization Safety Surveillance System

Academic journal article Bulletin of the World Health Organization

Presenting the Case for an Immunization Safety Surveillance System

Article excerpt

Brian Ward is to be congratulated on stating so clearly the reasons for a monitoring system being necessary for any adverse events that could be related to vaccination (1). I believe the reticence of governments about inaugurating surveillance systems has several causes. First, although WHO encourages its Member States to develop and sustain a monitoring system, they still do not see the need for such a system or the value of it very clearly. Second, health departments are concerned that systematic searching for adverse events related to vaccination might have a negative impact on their immunization programmes, by giving the impression to immunization teams that the vaccines are not safe, contrary to what they had learnt during training. In addition, asking questions in the community might prompt people to think that something wrong with the vaccines, concealed from the users, is the reason for data being collected, even though the vaccines have been in use for a long time without the issue being raised.

The importance of surveillance of adverse events following vaccination was not widely recognized in Egypt until April 1998 when a few adverse events occurred in one governorate and were considered to be vaccine-related. The media received information about these cases before the medical authorities did, as at that time there was no surveillance system for such occurrences. Irresponsible handling by the media caused rumours to spread that the vaccine was unsafe. This tarnished the reputation of the immunization programme, led to community panic, and had a negative effect on the coverage for all seven antigens included in Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) activities all over the country.

After that, the Ministry of Health decided to establish a comprehensive system for the surveillance of adverse events following vaccination aimed at detecting such events early so that they could be investigated and proper action could be taken. …

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