Introduction: Diverse algorithms for signal detection exist. However, inconsistent results are often encountered among the algorithms due to different levels of specificity used in defining the adverse events (AEs) and signal threshold. We aimed to explore potential safety signals for two pneumococcal vaccines in a spontaneous reporting database and compare the results and performances among the algorithms. Methods: Safety surveillance was conducted using the Korea national spontaneous reporting database from 1988 to 2017. Safety signals for pneumococcal vaccine and its subtypes were detected using the following the algorithms: disproportionality methods comprising of proportional reporting ratio (PRR), reporting odds ratio (ROR), and information component (IC); empirical Bayes geometric mean (EBGM); and tree-based scan statistics (TSS). Moreover, the performances of these algorithms were measured by comparing detected signals with the known AEs or pneumococcal vaccines (reference standard). Results: Among 10,380 vaccine-related AEs, 1135 reports and 101 AE terms were reported following pneumococcal vaccine. IC generated the most safety signals for pneumococcal vaccine (40/101), followed by PRR and ROR (19/101 each), TSS (15/101), and EBGM (1/101). Similar results were observed for its subtypes. Cellulitis was the only AE detected by all algorithms for pneumococcal vaccine. TSS showed the best balance in the performance: the highest in accuracy, negative predictive value, and area under the curve (70.3%, 67.4%, and 64.2%). Conclusion: Discrepancy in the number of detected signals was observed between algorithms. EBGM and TSS calibrated noise better than disproportionality methods, and TSS showed balanced performance. Nonetheless, these results should be interpreted with caution due to a lack of a gold standard for signal detection.
Keywords: empirical Bayes geometric mean; pneumococcal vaccine; quantitative signal detection; tree-based scan statistics.