Vaccine News & Notes — February 2021

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COVID-19 vaccines safety monitoring

Just like with any vaccine, COVID-19 vaccines are being monitored for safety as they roll out. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) use several different systems to monitor vaccine safety:

  • Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) — Anyone who believes a vaccine has caused a side effect or involved an administration error can submit a report to VAERS, including healthcare providers, vaccine manufacturers, parents and patients.
  • Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) — Data collected from millions of health records are analyzed to monitor vaccine safety and conduct studies looking into rare or serious adverse events following vaccination.
  • Post-licensure Rapid Immunization Monitoring System (PRISM) — Data from national health insurance plans and immunization registries is used to monitor vaccine safety.
  • Clinical Immunization Safety Assessment Project (CISA) — A network composed of vaccine safety experts, located at centers throughout the country, who assist with case reviews, technical issues, and research related to vaccine safety issues relevant to individuals or particular subgroups of the population.

These systems work in different ways so that the FDA and the CDC have many chances to look for vaccine safety concerns. 

For COVID-19 vaccines, the CDC is using two extra monitoring systems:

  1. V-safe — This new program allows the CDC to communicate with people through text messaging and web-based surveys to gather information about how they feel after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine.
  2. National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN) — Because of the emphasis on getting people in long-term care facilities immunized, this existing system will play an important role in tracking vaccinations in this susceptible population.

What to expect after getting a COVID-19 vaccine

Whether you’re already scheduled for the COVID-19 vaccine or you’re waiting for your turn, you may have some questions about what to expect. With this in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has created a webpage that provides relevant information, including:

  • Vaccine side effects
  • Tips for reducing pain and discomfort
  • When to call your doctor
  • When to schedule your second shot

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also posted information for vaccine recipients. These documents are specific for each vaccine:

Other COVID-19 resources

  • Voices for Vaccines — This national, parent-led nonprofit vaccine advocacy group is dedicated to providing information guided by science about the safety and importance of immunization. Check out the “Parents Who Vax” webpage for recent interviews and stories about COVID-19, including:
    • Let’s Ask Dr. Stanley Plotkin About These COVID-19 Vaccines
    • The First Shot Against COVID-19
    • Dr. Offit Talks COVID-19 Vaccines
    • And much more
  • Vaccinate Your Family — This national nonprofit organization aims to educate the public about the importance of timely vaccination. Visit their “Information and Resources on COVID-19 and COVID-19 Vaccines” page for access to:
    • COVID-19 vaccine contact information for each state health department
    • COVID-19 graphics and educational handouts
    • COVID-19 FDA and CDC Zoom series

Materials in this section are updated as new information and vaccines become available. The Vaccine Education Center staff regularly reviews materials for accuracy.

You should not consider the information in this site to be specific, professional medical advice for your personal health or for your family's personal health. You should not use it to replace any relationship with a physician or other qualified healthcare professional. For medical concerns, including decisions about vaccinations, medications and other treatments, you should always consult your physician or, in serious cases, seek immediate assistance from emergency personnel.