On July 3, 1991, the National Academy of Sciences' Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a reported entitled, Adverse Effects of Pertussis and Rubella Vaccines,1 in response to a congressional request to review evidence about a set of serious adverse events and immunization with pertussis and rubella vaccines. The request originated in the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (Public Law 99-660), whose primary purpose was to establish a federal compensation scheme for persons potentially injured by a vaccine; Section 312 of Public Law 99-660 called for the IOM review.

Over the course of its 20-month study, the 11-member interdisciplinary committee constituted by IOM to conduct the review examined altogether 18 adverse events for pertussis vaccine—infantile spasms; hypsarhythmia; aseptic meningitis; acute encephalopathy; chronic neurologic (permanent brain) damage; deaths classified as sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); anaphylaxis, autism; erythema multiforme or other rashes; Guillain-Barré syndrome (polyneuropathy); peripheral mononeuropathy; hemolytic anemia; juvenile diabetes; learning disabilities and hyperactivity; protracted inconsolable crying or screaming; Reye's syndrome; shock and "unusual shock-like state" with hypotonicity, hyporesponsiveness, and short-lived convulsions (usually febrile); and thrombocytopenia—and 4 adverse events for rubella vaccine—acute arthritis; chronic arthritis; radiculoneuritis and other neuropathies; and thrombocytopenic purpura. In conducting its review, the committee recognized that its charge was to focus on questions of causation and not broader topics, such as cost-benefit or risk-benefit analyses of vaccination.

This summary begins with a brief history of events leading to the IOM study, then reviews the methods used by the committee to evaluate the evidence, summarizes the committee's conclusions for these adverse events, and offers directions for future investigation of adverse events in connection with widely used health interventions, such as vaccination.

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