Work is under way at the Department of General Practice and Primary Health Care within the University of Auckland to gather baseline data on medical events that have potential to be associated with COVID-19 vaccines. Defining these potential Adverse Events of Special Interest (AESI) and calculating the rate at which they have occurred in New Zealand in the past are prerequisites for monitoring the safety of COVID-19 vaccines. If these adverse events occur after a vaccine is introduced to the population, New Zealand will have a frame of reference with which to compare the rates of these events to assess if there is a safety concern or not. The Brighton Collaboration has already defined 22 AESI and Assoc. Prof. Helen Petousis-Harris and her team are currently gathering data to calculate the background rates of these events, with funding provided by the New Zealand Ministry of Health.
While there may have been a lot of attention on developing COVID vaccines, there has been less interest in investing in the vaccine safety monitoring mechanisms required under these extraordinary conditions. There is an urgency to get these systems in place both nationally and globally. An article in the New York Times explains how the much-touted system the government designed to monitor any dangerous reactions won’t be capable of analyzing safety data for weeks or months, according to numerous federal health officials.