Medicines and vaccines have transformed the modern world. Thanks to these innovations, diseases that used to kill large populations have been controlled over the past century, enabling more of the world’s population to live long and healthy lives and contribute to the global economy and scientific advancements. Key to the success of these tools is the science of pharmacovigilance—the detection, assessment, understanding, and prevention of any adverse effects related to the use of a specific medicine or vaccine. While all medicines and vaccines undergo rigorous clinical trials, such testing environments cannot account for all factors that products will come in contact with when used by large, heterogeneous populations over long periods. Due to time restraints and limitations on the types of individuals eligible to participate in clinical trials safely (typically not individuals with concurrent diseases, young children, or pregnant women), some side effects related to vaccine or medicine use can only be detected after the products have been widely released.
Countries require robust safety surveillance systems capable of timely detection, reporting, and analysis of adverse events in order to ensure the long-term safety of drugs and vaccines once they are available on the market. Such systems implement advanced pharmacovigilance approaches to ensure healthcare workers diagnose these events, quality data is captured for each event, and teams of experts are available to review the data and take appropriate actions. Ensuring comprehensive and timely surveillance is critical to individual patient safety and an essential factor in ensuring the public trust in medicines and vaccines.