“Near real-time” data on whether people are having any side effects from vaccinations is now available, thanks to new technology and a study performed in Scotland. The researchers, who focused on recipients of the 2009/2010 swine flu vaccination in Scotland, reported that using this technology can aid future vaccination campaigns by increasing consumer and patient safety.
It was recommended by the UK Government in 2009 that certain individuals be vaccinated against swine flu, as the disease was spreading rapidly on a global scale. The vaccines quickly went though testing and production phases—faster than usual, due to the urgent call for the drugs from the general public—and some feared that this could result in unwanted side effects from the vaccines.
Researchers aimed to use recent technology in order to speed up the data collection process from the vaccinations. Data from existing mechanisms for collecting data on vaccination side-effects usually takes some time (possibly months or years) to be assessed, and it can take even longer for the results to be made public.
The research team—led by Dr Isla Mackenzie from the Medicines Monitoring Unit at the University of Dundee
and Dr Deborah Layton from the Drug Safety Research Unit in Southampton—gathered information from 3,754 individuals at the time they were vaccinated and 312 individuals who refused the vaccination.
The team then utilized internet-based incentives to encourage these subjects to provide follow-up reports on their health once on a monthly basis for the next six months. "We asked people to let us know whether they had any serious health problems following being offered swine flu vaccination,” reported Dr. Mackenzie. “We also followed up a group of pregnant women who were offered swine flu vaccination to check whether there were any problems with their pregnancies or their babies.”
After the end of the six month follow-up period, the researchers reported that they found no safety issues with the swine flu vaccination. "Our study adds to the pool of data which indicates that vaccination is generally safe and in the interests of public health," said Dundee researcher Professor Tom MacDonald, who took part in the study.
While these findings are reassuring for those who received this particular vaccination, Dr Mackenzie reported that this study is indicative of future uses of this technology. "The use of web-based technology in the study was successful in reducing costs and allowing the collection of high quality data directly from patients. This method for near 'real-time' monitoring, with minimal additional workload for healthcare staff, should be considered as an additional tool for other safety studies.”
This study was published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology