Meigs Health Matters… The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

By Leanne Cunningham - Contributing columnist



The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national program that monitors the safety of vaccines after they are licensed. VAERS is managed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (

Vaccines prevent serious illnesses and even death in persons who receive them. Before a vaccine is licensed, FDA takes steps to make sure the vaccine is safe. FDA requires that a vaccine goes through extensive safety testing. After a vaccine is licensed, VAERS is one of the mechanisms used to monitor for any problems, or “adverse events,” that happen after vaccination.

Not all events reported to VAERS are caused by the vaccine. Even though careful studies are done before a vaccine is licensed, rare adverse effects may not be found until a vaccine is given to millions of people with different backgrounds and medical histories. By continued monitoring, VAERS helps to make sure that the benefits of vaccines are far greater than the risks.

Anyone who receives a vaccine should be informed about both the benefits and risks of vaccination. Any questions or concerns should be discussed with a healthcare provider.

Limitation and Usefulness of VAERS: VAERS is unable to determine that a vaccine caused or did not cause an adverse event. Sometimes people who are vaccinated get sick from another cause unrelated to the vaccine.

Even though VAERS cannot determine that a vaccine caused an adverse event, it can give CDC and FDA important information that might signal a problem. If it looks as though a vaccine might be causing an adverse event, FDA and CDC will investigate further.

Does VAERS provide medical advice?

No, VAERS does not provide medical advice. For medical advice, please contact your healthcare provider or state health department.

Who can report to VAERS?



Healthcare providers;

Others: CDC and FDA encourage anybody who experiences any problems after vaccination to report to VAERS. Healthcare providers are required by law to report certain problems.

Why should I report to VAERS?

Reporting gives valuable information that helps CDC and FDA make sure that vaccines are safe;

Reporting strengthens VAERS so it can be used to assess public health response to vaccines;

Reporting allows for evaluating public health prevention and control measures.

Remember, no vaccine (or any medicine) is completely free of risk and adverse events are possible. If you have an adverse event after a vaccine, please report to VAERS. Each report is important!

What types of events should I report?

You should report any adverse event that happens after getting a vaccine, even if you are not sure that the vaccine caused the adverse event. It is especially important to report any adverse event that resulted in hospitalization, disability, or death. If you are not sure that a certain type of adverse event should be reported to VAERS, talk with your healthcare provider. Healthcare providers are required by law to report certain adverse events. To get a list of these, please call 1-800-822-7967 or go to

How do I report?

Go to then choose one of two ways to report to VAERS:

1) Report online (preferred method)

2) Report using a Writable PDF Form. Download the Writable PDF Form to your computer, complete it and then return to the VAERS website to upload the completed form. Important: Use a desktop or laptop computer on which you can securely save a document that contains protected health information, personal identifiers or other sensitive personal or patient information. If you need further assistance with reporting to VAERS, please email or call 1-800-822-7967. Operators are on duty from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Eastern Time, Monday through Friday. After you submit a report, VAERS staff may contact you for additional information. CDC and FDA use VAERS data to monitor vaccine safety. VAERS data are also available to the public after all identifying formation, such as names and addresses are removed to protect the privacy of the patient.

The National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP) is a separate federal program that provides compensation to individuals whose injuries may have been caused by certain vaccines. Please be aware that reporting an event to VAERS does not constitute filing a claim with the VICP. Information on the VICP can be obtained by calling 1-800-338-2382 or visiting their website at

For More Information, visit Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. For general information on vaccines and immunization schedules you can call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or visit

Additional information may be found at Food and Drug Administration. For safety and effectiveness information on FDA-licensed vaccines you can call 1-800-835-4709 and visit

The above information was excerpted from the website brochure “Do Your Part for Vaccine Safety – Report to VAERS Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — A National Program for Monitoring Vaccine Safety.”


By Leanne Cunningham

Contributing columnist

Leanne Cunningham RN, BSN, CLC, is director of nursing for the Meigs County Health Department.

Leanne Cunningham RN, BSN, CLC, is director of nursing for the Meigs County Health Department.