Vaccine safety in Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic: Lessons learned on the frontline

Ingrid Laemmle-Ruff, Georgina Lewis, Hazel J. Clothier, Gerardo Luis Dimaguila, Michelle Wolthuizen, Jim Buttery, Nigel W. Crawford

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleOtherpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Surveillance of Adverse Events Following Vaccination in the Community (SAEFVIC), Victoria's vaccine safety service for reporting adverse events following immunisation (AEFI), has provided integrated spontaneous surveillance and clinical services for individuals affected by AEFI since 2007. We describe SAEFVIC's response to the COVID-19 vaccine program, and reflect on lessons learned for vaccine safety. The massive scale of the Australian COVID-19 vaccine program required rapid adaptations across all aspects of SAEFVIC's vaccine safety services. Collection of AEFI reports was streamlined and expanded, incorporating both spontaneous and active surveillance data. Dramatically increased report volumes were managed with additional staffing, and innovations to automate, filter, and triage reports for priority follow up. There were two major adverse events of special interest (AESI): thrombosis with thrombocytopaenia syndrome and myocarditis, with multiple other AESI also investigated. Rapid escalation mechanisms to respond to AESI were established, along with AESI-specific databases for enhanced monitoring. Vaccine education and training resources were developed and public-facing vaccine safety reports updated weekly. Frequent communication with local and national government and regulatory bodies, and consultation with specialist groups was essential. The COVID-19 vaccine program has highlighted the importance of vaccine safety in supporting public confidence in vaccines and informing evidence-based immunisation policy. Supporting the COVID-19 vaccine program has required flexibility in adapting to policy changes and evolving vaccine safety signals, careful triage and prioritisation, informatics innovation, and enhanced engagement with the public regarding vaccine safety. Long-term investment to continue strengthening vaccine safety systems, building on lessons learned, will be essential for the ongoing success of Australian vaccination programs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1053637
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Public Health
Publication statusPublished - 4 Nov 2022


  • COVID-19 vaccines
  • immunisation
  • pharmacovigilance
  • surveillance
  • vaccine safety

Cite this