Sustaining Vaccine Confidence

Dr Bettina Santos MD FPIDSP

Bataan Medical Center

Vaccine safety concern is nothing new. No vaccine is 100% safe, if we define safe as harmless. Since this would imply that any negative consequence of a vaccine would make the vaccine unsafe. All vaccines have side effects- tenderness, redness, pain and swelling; but this does not mean they are unsafe. One could also define safe as having been preserve form a real danger. The danger of a disease which are often life-threatening and/or disabling must be much greater than the rare or small risk of protection against the disease produced by the vaccine.

Scientists ensure the safety of vaccine by conducting different types of studies. Before a vaccine becomes available for general use, it would require to undergo several pre-clinical (animal studies) and clinical trials over a long period of time. The vaccine manufacturers and the Food and Drug Administration will carry out these studies before a decision is made about whether a vaccine is safe, effective and ready to be licensed for use. After a vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration and made available to the public the post licensure studies are conducted. These studies continue to monitor vaccine safety and often include groups that are often underrepresented in clinical trials. It can also look into rare adverse events.

Few things in life are truly harmless so with vaccine, as with all things, we must make decisions about risks versus benefits.

There are tips on vaccine safety:

Prior to Vaccination: Screen patients for contraindications and precautions prior to each vaccine dose, provide information on vaccine to be administered.

During Vaccination: Do not deviate from recommended route, site, and dosage of vaccine.

After Vaccination: Observe necessary precautions, be prepared for emergency care of anaphylactic reaction, provide information and advice on vaccine side effects.

Health professionals are the single most important influence on whether individuals decide to have themselves and their children vaccinated. Information and education are essential. Parents need the assurance of someone in authority who has knowledge and expertise in the subject.

Communication should build confidence in immunization.

The goal of communication with parents is to maintain trust. The physician should listen emphatically to parents and their concerns. The parents should be reassured and supported but there should be no false promises.

In the Philippines, we have both government and private sectors working together to build and sustain vaccine confidence and in the process move towards vaccine resilience. There have been many challenges in the last 10 years that have reduced vaccine coverage, including natural disasters and typhoons as well as man-made disasters brought about by fake news as exemplified by the dengue vaccine issues. In all of these, there is a need to strengthen education and communication among our people including policy makers , health care professionals and all stakeholders.


  2. CDC & Prevention, Epidemiology and Prevention of Vaccine Preventable Diseases. W, Wolfe. Hamborsky, Jeds. 12th ed. Washington DC. Public Health Foundation 2011
  4. PIDSP Modules on Principles Of Vaccination and Vaccine Safety 2018