Restoring Confidence in Vaccines by Explaining Vaccine Safety Monitoring
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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.
The Wellcome Trust provided funding for the research in the form of a Public Engagement with Science research studentship (Grant number 068868); however, both authors are independent of the funding source. The funding source had no role in the study design; in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data; in the writing of the report; or in the decision to submit the paper for publication. AR Cox is also employed on a part-time basis at Yellow Card Centre West Midlands, a regional education centre of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA). The authors have no conflicts of interest that are directly relevant to the content of this article.
The viewpoints expressed in this commentary are those of the authors and not necessarily endorsed by the MHRA. Ethical approval for the interviews described in this paper was given by the Durham University Ethics Advisory Committee in July 2002 (Application Number 01 EAC 87).
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