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Making Vaccines Safer

NWCPHP teamed up with Public Health - Seattle & King County and Washington State Pharmacy Association to survey nearly 300 people in King County to find out how well everyone understood the vaccine health reporting systems.

October 7, 2011

Vaccines are one of the most powerful public health tools for preventing and controlling disease. But what happens in the rare event of an adverse reaction to a vaccine? Health professionals providing vaccines need to know which types of adverse events to report and where and how to report them.

The 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic made it clear that being able to quickly assess the safety of any widely disseminated flu vaccine is critically important. Policy decisions and patient confidence depend on it. So former NWCPHP Research Assistant, Dana Meranus, and NWCPHP faculty member, Andy Stergachis, teamed up with Jeff Duchin of Public Health - Seattle & King County and Jenny Arnold of the Washington State Pharmacy Association to survey nearly 300 physicians, nurses, pharmacists, and commercial vaccinator employees in King County to find out how well everyone understood the vaccine health reporting systems.

Recently published in the Journal of Pharmacoepidemiology and Drug Safety, the study revealed that 16 percent of those surveyed reported having seen a patient whose symptoms were suspected to be a vaccine-related adverse event. However, 61 percent of respondents were unclear about which types of adverse events were reportable; 18 percent of respondents did not know whose responsibility it was to report it; and 17 percent did not know how to report it.

The authors concluded that healthcare professionals who administer vaccines need additional information on their role in vaccine safety and adverse event reporting. Health professionals and the general public can report suspected vaccine-related adverse events to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS).

This study is one of five pilot projects of the Northwest Preparedness and Emergency Response Center (NWPERRC), housed at NWCPHP.

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