Active vaccine pharmacovigilance complements the standard passive or spontaneous surveillance system, which suffers from low reporting rates. This study aimed at utilizing population-based structures to report and profile adverse events following immunization (AEFI) with the measles and rubella vaccine (MR), or MR in combination with the bivalent oral polio vaccine (bOPV 1&3) (MR & bOPV), during mass vaccination in Uganda. Caretakers of children at home (less than 5 years) and schoolgoing children were followed up on and encouraged to report any AEFIs on day one, 2-3 days, 10 days, and 14 days after vaccination at school by their teachers and at-home, community-based village health teams. Out of 9798 children followed up on, 382 (3.9%) reported at least one AEFI, and in total, 517 AEFIs were reported. For MR, high temperature (21%), general feeling of weakness (19.3%), and headache (13%) were the most reported AEFIs, though there were variations on the days when they were reported. For the combination dose of MR & bOPV, high temperature (44%), rash (17%), general feeling of weakness (13%), and diarrhoea (8%) were the most common adverse events following immunization reported by caretakers. All 382 children cleared the AEFIs within 2 days, with 343 (90%) children reporting mild or moderate AEFIs and only 39 (10%) reporting severe AEFIs. The reported AEFIs are known and are mentioned in the vaccine leaflets with similar severity classification. Rates of AEFIs differed with the number of days after receiving the immunization. Conclusion: Active surveillance for AEFIs provides additional important information to national vaccine regulatory bodies. It reassures the public that vaccines are safe and that their safety is being taken seriously in Uganda, which would improve vaccine acceptability and confidence in the health system. Piggybacking on existing structures such as village health team members (for children at home) and teachers (for schoolgoing children) facilitates reaching vaccine recipients and increases reporting rates. Therefore, studies using active reporting of AEFIs should be conducted at regular intervals to report the overall incidence of AEs and to monitor trends and changes.
Keywords: AEFIs; active monitoring; mass vaccination campaigns; pharmacovigilance.