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Text technology tracks vaccine safety quickly

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A text messaging system that delivers near real-time monitoring of adverse effects from vaccinations has the potential to make the administration of vaccines safer and more effective, according to research published in the Medical Journal of Australia.

A group of researchers led by Perth-based general practitioner Dr Alan Leeb used prototype software called SmartVax to send vaccinees an SMS asking if they had experienced an adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) and requesting a reply.

Of 3281 patients vaccinated over 19 months, 3226 (98%) had a mobile telephone number in their record and were sent a text. Over 72% responded, with 11% (264) reporting an AEFI, mostly minor systemic or local reactions. Over 80% of the responses were received within 2 hours of transmission of the query SMS.

“In Australia and other countries, post-licensure monitoring of vaccine safety relies largely on passive surveillance”, the authors wrote.

“The constraints of passive AEFI reporting systems are well recognised and include underreporting, biased reporting and the inability to establish rates.”

“Active postmarketing surveillance of vaccine safety using SMS technology has the capacity to complement passive reporting systems, potentially enabling more rapid verification of emerging safety signals.”

Monitoring of adverse reactions to immunisation is core general practice. “The benefits of immunisation are well established and, overall, vaccines have an excellent safety record. We owe it to our patients to have comprehensive systems in place to ensure we can identify and respond quickly if there were to be a problem. The information obtained from systems like SmartVax can further reassure parents that immunisation is safe” Dr. Leeb said.

The high response rate and timely response to SmartVax “could be valuable when an urgent investigation into potential vaccine safety issues is necessary”, they wrote.

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