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Bull World Health Organ. 2000;78(2):178-85.

Monitoring signals for vaccine safety: the assessment of individual adverse event reports by an expert advisory committee. Advisory Committee on Causality Assessment.

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  • 1Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Community Studies, Sir Mortimer B. Davis-Jewish General Hospital, Montreal, Qu├ębec.


Monitoring vaccine safety is a complex and shared responsibility. It can be carried out in many ways, one of which is the reporting of individual cases of adverse reactions thought to be due to vaccination. The task is difficult because ascribing causality to an individual case report is fraught with challenges. A standardized evaluation instrument--known as the causality assessment form--was therefore developed for use by an expert advisory committee to facilitate the process. By following the several sections in this form, the members of the committee are taken through a series of points to establish causality. These points include the basic criteria for causation such as biological plausibility, the time elapsed between the vaccine administration and the onset of the adverse event, and whether other factors (drugs, chemicals or underlying disease) could account for the adverse symptoms. The form concludes with a consensus assessment of causality, a commentary about the assessment, and advice for further study or follow-up. This method of assessing the more serious cases of adverse reaction reported to vaccination has proven useful in evaluating ongoing safety of vaccines in Canada. Through analyses such as this, new signals can be identified and investigated further.

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