Making the Case for Vaccines' Safety

It's helpful to realize that vaccines have been controversial since the 1700s, when the first vaccine against smallpox raised safety concerns. So says the National Vaccine Advisory Committee's new draft report, posted May 10 as HHS asked for comments about its recommendations.

The 89-page report includes nine recommendations that begin on page 41. They include an expanded role for the Federal Immunization Safety Task Force, which is headed by HHS and includes representatives from HHS agencies, the Defense Department, and Veterans Affairs, and development of a vaccine safety research agenda to be updated every three to five years. One recommendation is that CDC "evaluate the usefulness of rapidly deployed and analyzed public opinion polling and active monitoring or electronic media to ascertain public concerns and perceptions about vaccine safety. Findings," it says, "should be used to inform both the vaccine safety research agenda and communications programs."

The committee's report notes that U.S. vaccination rates are high, but vaccine refusals have been increasing. It notes that no causal link was found in 99 cases of Guillain-Barre Syndrome that were investigated in 2005 after the young recipients had received a meningitis vaccine. Some evaluations are still under way of adverse events reported following the 2009 H1N1 influenza vaccination program, but so far no warnings relevant to that vaccine have been found, it states.

Recommendation 6 (page 46) concerns communications with the public and health professionals. This should involve a publicly accessible website with as and should offer information about each licensed vaccine, including summaries of key clinical trials, abstracts of peer-reviewed research reports, and "a clearer public explanation of each agency's role in post-licensure vaccine safety."

Comments should be e-mailed to [email protected]

Posted by Jerry Laws on May 11, 2011