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NHS Grampian Health Protection Team

News Highlight


Vaccine safety net

Members of the public go to the internet when they need advice on topics like health, career and relationships. The same applies when parents and caregivers seek advice on the credibility of vaccines, whether it is safe for their children. The difficulty of finding such information have been exacerbated by the surge of various website in recent years providing misleading and alarming vaccine safety information, leading to undue fear. 

WHO's vaccine safety net is a network of vaccine safety websites, to provide parents, caregivers and healthcare professionals with easy accessibility to credible and trustworthy vaccine information. The network www.vaccinesafetynet.org currently have 47 member websites in 12 languages. It is estimated that more that 173 million users accesses the vaccine safety net every month, which contains, among other information, credible vaccine safety information.  

Candidates' websites are evaluated by WHO with criteria defined by the global advisory committee on vaccine safety - an independent, authoritative and scientific committee that advises the organisation on vaccine safety issues of global or regional concern that could impact national immunization programmes. An initial check is carried out to ensure websites have a public health focus, contain current evidence- based, unbiased information on vaccine safety, are clearly written and very easy to navigate. 

Websites that represent industry are also ineligible to join the network. The vaccine safety net sites must be reviewed and updated at least every two years. The evaluation team examines the website using 34 formal assessment criteria once the site is through with the initial screening process.

In order to join the vaccine safety network, websites must be transparent to saying who owns, manages and pay for the content they host, and also have process in place to validate the source of the information they publish. The vaccine safety net is working on increment of the evaluated websites particularly in additional languages such as Arabic or from a geographical location yet to be covered by the network such as Balkans. The network is also expanding its evaluation criteria to cover social media channels and currently piloting the process of reviewing facebook pages in order to get information to more diverse people. Immunisation Scotland is one of the three UK members of the network. 


Zika virus infection 


Discovered opportunistically in Monkeys in Uganda. Zika virus (ZIKV) is a flavivirus, which relatively cause a mild disease. The virus is transmitted by mosquitoes of genus aedes, responsible for causing yellow fever and dengue fever. The first time zika virus was transmitted outside of Africa and Asia was in 2007 outbreak at the Yap Island, in the federated state of Micronesia. In 2013, a further outbreak was reported in the French Polynesia, which continued into 2014 and in which the first cases of possible perinatal transmission and Gullain-Barre syndrome (GBS) were reported. Further outbreak in the Pacific Island were reported in 2014 and 2015.

 In 2015, the first outbreaks were reported in the South and Central America. In May 2015, zika virus was then suspected and confirmed in the North East of Brazil. Other parts of Brazil soon report news of outbreaks and so did other countries within the region. Further cases were also reported from the Caribbean Islands.  

Countries/territories/areas are assigned into category of risk of zika virus transmission as determined by the data provided by ECDC. Since early 2015, ZIKV has been reported in twenty Brazilian states with estimates of cases ranging from 440,000 to 1.3million by late 2015. The cases with greater concern are reports of developmental defects including microcephaly among babies in Brazil. These cases were reported in the North East of Brazil where zika is prevalence and there is now strong evidence of causation between zika and neurodevelopmental defects, causing WHO to declare these defects as a public health emergency. 

Advice for the travelling public can be found the fit for travel website for countries/areas/territories with all categories of risk. 


There is no medicine or vaccine available that prevents ZIKV infection.  

The most effective way to avoid infection is to prevent mosquito bites by using insect repellents and wearing the appropriate clothing. 

Abstaining or using condoms to reduce the transmission of ZIKV infection during conception or pregnancy. 


HCV testing awareness campaign  

Individuals who may have been exposed to HCV via blood or blood products before September 1991, who are yet to be tested are offered the HCV (hepatitis c) testing.

The Scottish government commissioned a short-life working group to ascertain the number of living undiagnosed people with the recommendation of actions aimed at identifying them. A targeted awareness campaign was recommended by the group aimed at individuals who have had a blood transfusion before September 1991, encouraging them to come forward for testing. Anyone who had received a blood transfusion after September 1991 is not at risk as HCV testing was introduced after the time. 

Patients might be unaware they had received blood transfusion in cases of major surgery, severe accident or child birth complications. Highly effective HCV therapies are now available so anyone who might have been at risk of exposure is diagnosed quickly. In some people, HCV may only cause minor or no symptoms until later stages of the infection. Taking the blood test will put minds at rest and if positive, will enable treatment to start immediately.

Around 32 people, who are still alive have been estimated by the short-life working group, who had received blood transfusions in Scotland before September 1991 were infected and yet to be diagnosed. Even though the risk seems small, patients are encouraged to seek further advise should they have doubts. 

For further information, see hepatitis Scotland website at