A friendlier way to source and search the data that VAERS provides.

What is OpenVAERS?

OpenVaers makes the data provided through VAERS more accessible. The content following is direct from the site’s Home and About pages:

VAERS is the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System put in place in 1990. It is a voluntary reporting system that has been estimated to account for only 1%* of vaccine injuries. OpenVAERS is built from the HHS data available for download at vaers.hhs.gov.

The OpenVAERS Project allows browsing and searching of the reports without the need to compose an advanced search (this can be done at medalerts.org).

We use the readily available data dumps that VAERS provides to build our data. These dumps used to update monthly from VAERS but since COVID VAERS now provides a weekly update. Each year needs to be downloaded separately. Each year’s file contains 3 CSV files. These are relational databases that have to be hooked back together in order to build a single datafile for the web. So 3 files x 31 years = 90 files and then there is a single foreign records table containing 90,000+ records from all 31 years in one. Each file set has to be downloaded separately. We decided before COVID our updates would happen yearly as there was no way to do this every month. With the COVID changes, people (and us) want up-to-date data. So we are now updating weekly just 2020 and 2021 and will continue to do the entire fileset once per year.

VAERS data is difficult to work with. For example, VAERS has 6 date fields to search by but only one was a required field in the record creation. This means that if you search deaths by a year in any other date field (example Date of Death) you will get an undercount of total deaths. But, if you use the one field every record has (RCVDATE) then you will not be able to consistently chart to a date. Meaning if you are looking for how deaths progress by year in relation to an historical event (say the introduction of a vaccine), your data will be faulty because the record can be received ANYTIME after the injury. This is part of why VAERS is unreliable for precise data analysis, I imagine.

Another issue is naming conventions and search terms. Do you want Bell’s Palsy? Well, you need to search “Facial Paralysis” in the Symptoms field. But, what about numbness, tingling, parasthesia? That could show up in the description not the symptom list because someone with symptoms of Bell’s Palsy may not have had it entered as an “official” symptom. This is also true of Anaphylaxis. If you search Anaphylaxis you get a result. However, if you search for throat itchiness and hives your true cases of severe allergy increase exponentially.

What is VAERS? Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System

Established in 1990, the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) is a national early warning system to detect possible safety problems in U.S.-licensed vaccines. VAERS is co-managed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS accepts and analyzes reports of adverse events (possible side effects) after a person has received a vaccination. Anyone can report an adverse event to VAERS. Healthcare professionals are required to report certain adverse events and vaccine manufacturers are required to report all adverse events that come to their attention.

VAERS is a passive reporting system, meaning it relies on individuals to send in reports of their experiences to CDC and FDA. VAERS is not designed to determine if a vaccine caused a health problem, but is especially useful for detecting unusual or unexpected patterns of adverse event reporting that might indicate a possible safety problem with a vaccine. This way, VAERS can provide CDC and FDA with valuable information that additional work and evaluation is necessary to further assess a possible safety concern.

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