An adverse event following immunization (AEFI) is any untoward medical occurrence in a vaccinee that follows immunization. It does not necessarily have a causal relationship with the vaccine or the immunization process.
For the criteria for the reporting of adverse events, and for help with the interpretation of adverse events following immunization and their implications for subsequent immunization, see Part 5 of the BC Immunization Manual: Adverse Events Following Immunization.
As of January 1, 2019, a health professional who is aware of an adverse event following immunization must report the event to the medical health officer as per the Reporting Information Affecting Public Health Regulation, Part 2, Division 1, Section 5 of the Public Health Act.
Events that must be reported include:
- serious events (life-threatening or resulting in death, requiring hospitalization, resulting in a residual disability, associated with congenital malformation)
- events requiring urgent medical attention
- unusual or unexpected events (for example, an event that has not been identified previously or has been identified before but is occurring with greater frequency in the population)
- clusters of events: known or new events that occur in a geographic or temporal cluster (for example, 6 in a week or 6 in a single Health Service Delivery Area)
Events that should not be reported:
- local injection site reactions and non-specific systemic reactions (for example, headache, myalgia) that are known to occur with the vaccine(s), unless these are more frequent or severe than expected based on clinical trial findings (However, always counsel clients about expected reactions following immunization and how to manage these reactions.)
- events that have another obvious cause (for example, co-existing conditions)
- Download the Adverse Event Following Immunization case report form or the Report of Adverse Event Following Immunization with COVID-19 Vaccine (for non-public health professionals reporting AEFI following COVID-19 vaccination)
- Refer to the AEFI user guide for instructions on how to complete the AEFI case report form
- Complete the form and print it
- Mail or fax the completed, printed form to your local health unit in your health authority
Anaphylaxis is an adverse event, a very rare but potentially life-threatening reaction to immunization. Healthcare providers who observe or treat an anaphylactic episode are asked to complete a worksheet in addition to the AEFI form. The information in the worksheet can be used to help complete the AEFI form.
- Download the Worksheet for Events Managed as Anaphylaxis Following Immunization
- Complete and print the form.
- Use the worksheet to complete the AEFI form and report the AEFI to the the local health unit as outlined above.
It is very rare for a vaccine to result in a permanent injury. Canada's Vaccine Injury Support Program (VISP) is a federal program that provides financial suport if it is determined that an individual has experienced a serious and permanent injury after receiving a Health Canada-approved vaccine, administered in Canada on or after December 8, 2020. This includes all vaccines approved by Health Canada and emergency use authorization vaccines such as COVID-19. Financial support is also available to dependents of an individual who has died after vaccination. Learn more at vaccineinjurysupport.ca.
Physicians and other health professionals are encouraged to inform patients who may be eligible for compensation by VISP about this program. If you support a patient in submission of a claim to the Vaccine Injury Support Program, please also report their adverse events to public health as outlined above.