The committee acknowledges the evidence that reduced immunization coverage is associated with increases in the incidence of vaccine-preventable disease and found inconsistent and anecdotal evidence to imply that the recommended immunization schedule is not safe. Moreover, existing adverse event detection systems provide confidence that the existing childhood immunization schedule is safe, and the committee recognizes that the federal government invests considerable resources to ensure vaccine safety. However, some stakeholders have suggested that further research is warranted, such as a comparison of vaccinated children with unvaccinated children or children immunized on alternative schedules.
It is possible to make this comparison through analyses of patient information contained in large databases such as VSD, but it would be unethical and infeasible to conduct an RCT, as summarized above and detailed in Chapter 6. Because an RCT would increase the risk of preventable diseases in individuals and in the community and entail significant amounts of time, money, and other resources, the committee concludes that new RCTs of the childhood immunization schedule are not justified at this time.
Recommendation 6-2: The Department of Health and Human Services should refrain from initiating randomized controlled trials of the childhood immunization schedule that compare safety outcomes in fully vaccinated children with those in unvaccinated children or those vaccinated by use of an alternative schedule.
The committee concludes that secondary analyses of existing data are more promising approaches to examination of the research questions identified by the committee in future studies of the childhood immunization schedule. VSD is a useful collaborative project for conducting both postmarketing surveillance and longer-term targeted research. The ability to augment the routinely collected administrative data in VSD with parent interviews and reviews of medical records for selected study populations is an important strength.
VSD is currently the best available system for studying the safety of the immunization schedule in the United States. VSD should strive to improve its generalizability to the U.S. population by enhancing the quality of its demographic information or by expanding its scope to include more diversity in its study populations. Secondary analyses with data from other existing databases could also be feasible, ethical, and cost-effective in investigating several of the research questions that the committee identified.
The committee recognizes that the currently funded managed care organizations’ commitment to VSD studies needs to remain high to continue and build on existing efforts. The committee concludes that VSD is a valuable component of the federal research infrastructure and will be the best-suited source of data for studying the childhood immunization schedule. VSD’s