Demographic characteristics of members of the Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD): A comparison with the United States population

Vaccine. 2015 Aug 26;33(36):4446-50. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2015.07.037. Epub 2015 Jul 23.


Background: The Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) is a collaboration between CDC and nine integrated health care systems that serves as a cornerstone of US post-licensure vaccine safety monitoring. Given concerns that potential differences between the insured VSD population and the US population could limit the generalizability of VSD study findings, we performed a comparison of the demographic characteristics between the two populations.

Methods: We collected data from medical records and administrative files at VSD sites in 2010 to compare sex, age, race, ethnicity, income, and educational attainment to the 2010 US Census population. We also compared data on the 2012 VSD Medicaid population to 2012 US Medicaid data.

Results: The VSD population included over eight million individuals in 2010, which represented 2.6% of the total US population. All major demographic groups were represented in the VSD. We found no major differences in comparing sex, race, ethnicity, and educational attainment between the VSD and the US population. Middle income populations were comparable between the VSD and the US. While the percentage of lower income populations was less in the VSD compared to the US, the VSD had over two million individuals in this group. Additionally, there were over 600,000 Medicaid members in the VSD in 2012, which represented 1.1% of the US Medicaid population.

Conclusions: We found that the VSD population is representative of the general US population on several key demographic and socioeconomic variables. Despite a few specific groups being underrepresented in the VSD compared to the US, the absolute number of VSD members is large enough to ensure significant representation of these groups in vaccine safety studies that use VSD data.

Keywords: Census; Demographics; Medicaid; Vaccine Safety Datalink.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Drug Reaction Reporting Systems*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Databases, Factual*
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Product Surveillance, Postmarketing*
  • United States
  • Vaccines / administration & dosage*
  • Vaccines / adverse effects*
  • Young Adult


  • Vaccines