BY TAMMIE SMITH
Media General News Service
Published: November 30, 2009
Question: There have been a lot of questions about the safety of flu vaccine and all vaccines, really. One friend told me her child’s doctor told her to “run” from the flu vaccine. She took her child elsewhere to get vaccinated. What’s the truth?
Answer: The federal government keeps a database of reports of injuries and adverse events related to vaccines. However, the data have limitations. Just because an event happened around the time someone was vaccinated does not mean the two are related. It could be coincidence. Also, anybody can report, and the validity of most reports are not verified. Serious reports, however, are followed up.
You can learn more about the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System database yourself online at http://vaers.hhs.gov/data/index. You can also search for types of adverse events reported. Navigate to the CDC Wonder interface at http://wonder.cdc.gov/vaers.html to search.
Reports do lead to changes. For instance, reports of girls fainting after getting the human papillomavirus vaccine (which protects against cervical cancer) led the Food and Drug Administration to require the makers of the Gardasil vaccine to update the warning label. The label now warns that fainting is a risk and advises health care providers have patients remain lying down or seated and closely observed for at least 15 minutes after getting vaccinated.