A process for sentinel case review to assess causal relationships between smallpox vaccination and adverse outcomes, 2003-2004
Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems
The US Department of Defense requested that the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices-Armed Forces Epidemiological Board joint Smallpox Vaccine Safety Working Group define the likelihood that smallpox vaccination played a causal role in the fatal illness of an Army reservist. Reported serious adverse events for which there was no a priori reason to discount the existence of a causal association with smallpox vaccine were reviewed to assess whether they were signals of constellations of vaccine-associated adverse events. A causal relationship between the immunization experience and the index patient's death was favored, but the implication of an individual vaccine was precluded. No new smallpox vaccine-associated clinical syndromes were identified. The data supported neutrality regarding the hypothesis that dilated cardiomyopathy was causally associated with smallpox vaccine-induced myocarditis. This review of sentinel cases augmented the ongoing safety review process and was transparent, but it shares limitations with other case-based causality-assessment methods.