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Underestimating the safety benefits of a new vaccine: the impact of acellular pertussis vaccine versus whole-cell pertussis vaccine on health services utilization

Hawken S, Manuel DG, Deeks SL, Kwong JC, Crowcroft NS, Wilson K. Am J Epidemiol. 2012; 176(11):1035-42. Epub 2012 Nov 1.

The population-level safety benefits of the acellular pertussis vaccine may have been underestimated because only specific adverse events were considered, not overall impact on health services utilization. Using the Vaccine and Immunization Surveillance in Ontario (VISION) system, the authors analyzed data on 567,378 children born between April 1994 and March 1996 (before introduction of acellular pertussis vaccine) and between April 1998 and March 2000 (after introduction of acellular pertussis vaccine) in Ontario, Canada. Using the self-controlled case series study design, they examined emergency room visits and hospital admissions occurring after routine pediatric vaccinations. The authors determined the relative incidence of events taking place before introduction of the acellular vaccine versus after introduction by calculating relative incidence ratios (RIRs). The observed RIRs demonstrated a highly statistically significant reduction in relative incidence after introduction of the acellular vaccine. RIRs for vaccine administered at ages 2, 4, 6, and 18 months were 1.82 (95% confidence interval (CI): 1.64, 2.01), 1.91 (95% CI: 1.71, 2.13), 1.54 (95% CI: 1.38, 1.72), and 1.51 (95% CI: 1.34, 1.69), respectively, comparing event rates before the introduction of acellular vaccine with those after introduction. The authors estimated that approximately 90 emergency room visits and 9 admissions per month were avoided by switching to the acellular vaccine, which is a 38-fold higher impact than when they considered only admissions for febrile and afebrile convulsions. Future analyses comparing vaccines for safety should examine specific endpoints and general health services utilization.

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Keywords: Vaccination