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PLoS One. 2019 Jan 15;14(1):e0210833. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0210833. eCollection 2019.

Demonstration of background rates of three conditions of interest for vaccine safety surveillance.

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St. Joseph's Health Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Public Health Ontario, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Epidemiology and Community Medicine, University of Ottawa, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathobiology, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.



Adverse events following immunization (AEFIs) are unwanted or unexpected health outcomes following vaccination, which may or may not be causally-linked to vaccines. AEFI reporting is important to post-marketing vaccine safety surveillance and has the potential to identify new or rare AEFIs, show increases in known AEFIs, and help to maintain public confidence in vaccine programs. Knowledge of the expected incidence (i.e. background rate) of a possible AEFI is essential to the investigation of vaccine safety signals. We selected three rarely reported AEFIs representing the spectrum of causal association with vaccines, from proven (immune thrombocytopenia [ITP]) to questioned (Kawasaki disease [KD]) to unsubstantiated (multiple sclerosis [MS]) and determined their background rates.


We extracted data on hospitalizations (CIHI Discharge Abstract Database) for ITP, KD, and MS among Ontario children for the period 2005 to 2014 from IntelliHEALTH. As ITP can be managed without hospitalization, we also extracted emergency department (ED) visits from the CIHI National Ambulatory Care Reporting System. For all conditions, we only counted the first visit and if the same child had both an ED visit and a hospitalization for ITP, only the hospitalization was included. We calculated rates by year, age group and sex using population estimates from 2005-2014, focusing on age groups within the Ontario immunization schedule around vaccine(s) of interest.


Per 100,000 population, annual age-specific incidence of ITP in children age 1 to 7 years ranged from 8.9 to 12.2 and annual incidence of KD in children less than 5 years ranged from 19.1 to 32.1. Average annualized incidence of adolescent (11-17 years) MS across the study period was 0.8 per 100,000.


Despite limitations, including lack of clinical validation, this study provides an example of how health administrative data can be used to determine background rates which may assist with interpretation of passive vaccine safety surveillance.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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