Public trust in childhood vaccines is crucial to achieving adequate immunisation coverage to ensure population-level immunity. However, in the UK, immunisation uptake has been adversely affected by vaccine safety scares, such as those surrounding whooping cough and measles, mumps and rubella (MMR). It is our belief that greater public awareness of safety surveillance schemes may play a key role in improving trust in vaccine safety.
Many parents of vaccination-age children are unaware of the procedures in place for postmarketing surveillance of vaccines. Thus, we propose specific steps for generating such awareness, such as assisting parents to report suspected adverse reactions directly to the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) via the Yellow Card scheme, providing information about adverse reaction reporting with vaccination information packs, and displaying posters and leaflets to convey the message that patient concerns and experiences are taken seriously by the MHRA and to generate further awareness about the scheme. In addition, healthcare staff should be encouraged to report suspected adverse reactions relating to vaccine products.
Unresolved issues about the scientific usefulness of data reported by parents and the potential for these steps to increase parental concern and expectations require further investigation.