Syndromic Surveillance of Vaccine-associated Adverse Events in U.S. Emergency Departments

Man showing the bandage after coronavirus vaccine shot

Syndromic surveillance can supplement vaccine safety monitoring systems currently being used. An article published in Vaccine demonstrates how emergency department data from the National Syndromic Surveillance Program (NSSP) can identify and monitor vaccine-associated adverse events (VAE).

By using a combination of chief complaint terms and diagnostic codes, syndromic surveillance can detect diagnoses frequently associated with VAE. The authors studied VAE trends and vaccine administration that coincided with seasonal influenza vaccines. They looked at all age groups and compared data from 2018 with that of 2019, particularly during the months when students return to school. They found that syndromic surveillance is a good complement to traditional surveillance systems (e.g., reportable disease surveillance).

Syndromic surveillance is, essentially, a passive way of collecting data without placing additional demands on data-collection resources that already contribute data to NSSP. For years, syndromic surveillance has served as an early warning system. Not until recently, however, have scientists used it as part of a multifaceted approach to monitor VAE-related emergency department visits. Studies like this reinforce the need to expand our definition of how syndromic surveillance can be used and to integrate syndromic data more fully with traditional surveillance systems.