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Worried about vaccine side effects? Find out how the CDC's Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System works

A vaccination center worker inoculates a woman with the Biontech vaccine against Covid-19 in Lower Saxony.
Moritz Frankenber
/
dpa/picture alliance via Getty I
A vaccination center worker inoculates a woman with the Biontech vaccine against Covid-19 in Lower Saxony.

Since 1990, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, have collected information about adverse reactions to immunizations through the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System — or VAERS. Reports to VAERS come from doctors and healthcare systems, as well as directly from members of the public. The information collected has been publicly available via the internet since 2001.

But, just because a negative reaction following a vaccination is included in the VAERS database, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the reaction was caused by the vaccination. Reports of all serious reactions are followed up on to determine whether they were in fact caused by the vaccine, or were coincidental.

Since the first COVID vaccines began being administered, the number of reports made to the VAERS system has spiked, and include things like anaphylaxis — which is a severe, potentially life-threatening allergic reaction; thrombosis with thrombocytopenia — which causes blood clots in large blood vessels and low platelet counts; myocarditis and pericarditis — which are inflammations of the heart muscle, or of the outer lining of the heart; and even death.

Learn about how reporting to VAERS works, what happens when serious adverse events are reported, and the rates at which serious adverse events are happening following COVID vaccinations.

There are 2 ways to submit a report to the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS)

Option 1: Submit a VAERS Report online external icon (Preferred)

The online VAERS Report must be completed and submitted in the same session; it cannot be saved and edited at a later time. Note: sessions time out after 20 minutes of inactivity; no information is saved.

Option 2: Download a Writable PDF Form and upload when ready external icon
The Writable PDF Form can be downloaded and completed electronically on your own time. When ready, return to the VAERS Writable PDF web page (use link above) and follow Step 2 instructions to upload the form.

More information on reporting an adverse event to VAERSexternal icon. If you need further assistance, email info@VAERS.org or call 1-800-822-7967.

GUEST

  • Dr. Tom Shimabukuro, Captain, U.S. Public Health Service and Deputy Director of the Immunization Safety Office at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Tara Calligan is an award-winning journalist and a public media producer, writer and online content creator at WGCU. Twitter @TlCalligan