Death and serious illness following influenza vaccination: a multidisciplinary investigation

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Abstract

Purpose

To evaluate a possible association between influenza vaccination and four deaths and four serious illnesses among 114 recent influenza vaccinees in a long-term care facility (LTCF) and two deaths from a nearby physician's office. All had received vaccine from the same lot (Lot A).

Methods

Field investigation including (1) a retrospective cohort study among LTCF residents who received Lot A or other influenza vaccine, (2) review of medical records of cases of death or serious illness, (3) active surveillance of deaths among 1500 community based Lot A vaccinees and (4) laboratory testing of vaccine from available Lot A vials.

Results

Medical record reviews showed no common clinical syndrome or cause of death. Laboratory testing of Lot A samples revealed no evidence of tampering and no differences compared to an unrelated lot. The risk of death or hospitalization was not significantly different between persons who received Lot A versus a comparison lot, Lot B (incidence rate ratio (IRR) = 0.9, 95%CI = 0.3–3.3).

Conclusions

There was no clinical or biological evidence pointing to inherent vaccine safety issues, nor was there a detectable increased risk of death or hospitalization among persons vaccinated with Lot A. Lot specific clustering of adverse events (AEs) may reflect medical events causally unrelated to vaccination. Rapid investigations of potential AEs are important to ensure vaccine safety and to maintain public and healthcare provider confidence in vaccines. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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