Global Vaccine Safety

Adverse events following immunization (AEFI)

As vaccine-preventable infectious diseases continue to decline, people have become increasingly concerned about the risks associated with vaccines. Furthermore, technological advances and continuously increased knowledge about vaccines have led to investigations focused on the safety of existing vaccines which have sometimes created a climate of concern.

Allegations regarding vaccine-related adverse events that are not rapidly and effectively dealt with can undermine confidence in a vaccine and ultimately have dramatic consequences for immunization coverage and disease incidence.

Alternatively, vaccine-associated adverse events may affect healthy individuals and should be promptly identified to allow additional research and appropriate action to take place. In order to respond promptly, efficiently, and with scientific rigour to vaccine safety issues, WHO has established a Global Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety.

Key points

  • There is no such thing as a "perfect" vaccine which protects everyone who receives it AND is entirely safe for everyone.
  • Effective vaccines (i.e. vaccines inducing protective immunity) may produce some undesirable side effects which are mostly mild and clear up quickly.
  • The majority of events thought to be related to the administration of a vaccine are actually not due to the vaccine itself - many are simply coincidental events, others (particularly in developing countries) are due to human, or programme, error.
  • It is not possible to predict every individual who might have a mild or serious reaction to a vaccine, although there are a few contraindications to some vaccines. By following contraindications the risk of serious adverse effects can be minimized.
Share