Continuous active surveillance of adverse events following immunisation using SMS technology.
INTRODUCTION On-going post-licensure surveillance of adverse events following immunisation (AEFI) is critical to detecting and responding to potentially serious adverse events in a timely manner. SmartVax is a vaccine safety monitoring tool that uses automated data extraction from existing practice management software and short message service (SMS) technology to follow-up vaccinees in real-time. We report on childhood vaccine safety surveillance using SmartVax at a medical practice in Perth, Western Australia. METHODS Parents of all children under age five years who were vaccinated according to the Australian National Immunisation Schedule between November 2011 and June 2015 were sent an SMS three days post administration to enquire whether the child had experienced a suspected vaccine reaction. Affirmative replies triggered a follow-up SMS requesting details of the reaction(s) via a link to a survey that could be completed using a smartphone or the web. Rates of reported AEFI including fever, headache, fatigue, rash, vomiting, diarrhoea, rigours, seizures, and local reactions were calculated by vaccination time point. RESULTS Overall, 239 (8.2%; 95% CI 7.2-9.2%) possible vaccine reactions were reported for 2897 vaccination visits over the 44 month time period. The proportion of children experiencing a possible AEFI, mostly local reactions, was significantly greater following administration of diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis-poliomyelitis vaccine at 4 years of age (77/441; 17.5%; 95% CI 13.9-21.0%) compared to the vaccinations given at 2-18 months (p<0.001). Across all time points, local reactions and fatigue were the most frequently reported AEFI. CONCLUSION Automated SMS-based reporting can facilitate sustainable, real-time, monitoring of adverse reactions and contribute to early identification of potential vaccine safety issues.