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Background rates of adverse events of special interest for COVID-19 vaccines: a multinational Global Vaccine Data Network (GVDN) analysis


Background — The Global COVID Vaccine Safety (GCoVS) project was established in 2021 under the multinational Global Vaccine Data Network (GVDN) consortium to facilitate the rapid assessment of the safety of newly introduced vaccines. This study analyzed data from GVDN member sites on the background incidence rates of conditions designated as adverse events of special interest (AESI) for COVID-19 vaccine safety monitoring.

Methods — Eleven GVDN global sites obtained data from national or regional healthcare databases using standardized methods. Incident events of 13 pre-defined AESI were included for a pre-pandemic period (2015–19) and the first pandemic year (2020). Background incidence rates (IR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated for inpatient and emergency department encounters, stratified by age and sex, and compared between pre-pandemic and pandemic periods using incidence rate ratios.

Results — An estimated 197 million people contributed 1,189,652,926 person-years of follow-up time. Among inpatients in the pre-pandemic period (2015–19), generalized seizures were the most common neurological AESI (IR ranged from 22.15 [95% CI 19.01–25.65] to 278.82 [278.20–279.44] per 100,000 person-years); acute disseminated encephalomyelitis was the least common (<0.5 per 100,000 person-years at most sites). Pulmonary embolism was the most common thrombotic event (IR 45.34 [95% CI 44.85–45.84] to 93.77 [95% CI 93.46–94.08] per 100,000 person-years). The IR of myocarditis ranged from 1.60 [(95% CI 1.45–1.76) to 7.76 (95% CI 7.46–8.08) per 100,000 person-years. The IR of several AESI varied by site, healthcare setting, age and sex. The IR of some AESI were notably different in 2020 compared to 2015–19.

Conclusion — Background incidence of AESIs exhibited some variability across study sites and between pre-pandemic and pandemic periods. These findings will contribute to global vaccine safety surveillance and research.



Phillips A, Jiang Y, Walsh D, Andrews N, Artama M, Clothier H, Cullen L, Deng L, Escolano S, Gentile A, Gidding G, Giglio N, Junker T, Huang W, Janjua N, Kwong J, Li J, Nasreen S, Naus M,  Naveed Z, Pillsbury A, Stowe J, Vo T, Buttery J, Petousis-Harris H, Black S, Hviid A. Vaccine. 2023; Sep 5 [Epub ahead of print].

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