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Clin Infect Dis. 2008 Mar 15;46 Suppl 3:S271-93. doi: 10.1086/524750.

A process for sentinel case review to assess causal relationships between smallpox vaccination and adverse outcomes, 2003-2004.

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  • 1Epidemiology and Surveillance Division, National Immunization Program, Coordinating Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA.


The US Department of Defense requested that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices-Armed Forces Epidemiological Board joint Smallpox Vaccine Safety Working Group define the likelihood that smallpox vaccination played a causal role in the fatal illness of an Army reservist. Reported serious adverse events for which there was no a priori reason to discount the existence of a causal association with smallpox vaccine were reviewed to assess whether they were signals of constellations of vaccine-associated adverse events. A causal relationship between the immunization experience and the index patient's death was favored, but the implication of an individual vaccine was precluded. No new smallpox vaccine-associated clinical syndromes were identified. The data supported neutrality regarding the hypothesis that dilated cardiomyopathy was causally associated with smallpox vaccine-induced myocarditis. This review of sentinel cases augmented the ongoing safety review process and was transparent, but it shares limitations with other case-based causality-assessment methods.

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