Fact file: Don’t be misled about vaccine side effects

Date published: 09 February 2022

Misinformation continues to circulate on social media about COVID-19 vaccines. Some of it involves scaremongering claims about vaccine side-effects. These claims are usually based on a misunderstanding, deliberate or otherwise, of the official Yellow Card reporting system for suspected adverse reactions to medicines.

Misinformation about the Yellow Card system has been cited in bogus legal notices delivered to some vaccine providers across the UK, including NI.


Here are the facts:

  • the Yellow Card reporting system is an official process of the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) the official UK regulatory body for medicines and vaccines.

  • the COVID-19 vaccines being provided in NI are all approved by the MHRA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

  • the MHRA’s advice to the public on the vaccines, as stated in the link below, is clear: “Vaccines are the best way to protect people from COVID-19 and have already saved tens of thousands of lives.”  

Coronavirus vaccine - weekly summary of Yellow Card reporting is available on the .gov.uk website.


  • as the MHRA explains, the Yellow Card system is for self-reporting of suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs). Anyone, whether a patient or a healthcare professional, can make such a report. This does not mean the cases are confirmed or verified. Some events may have happened anyway, regardless of vaccination, and this is particularly the case when millions of people are vaccinated, including when vaccines are prioritised for elderly people and people who have underlying illnesses.

  • the MHRA explains: “Many suspected ADRs reported on a Yellow Card do not have any relation to the vaccine or medicine and it is often coincidental that symptoms occurred around the same time as vaccination.”

And it adds: “It is important to note that Yellow Card data cannot be used to derive side effect rates or compare the safety profile of COVID-19 vaccines as many factors can influence ADR reporting.”

Despite this, some people continually misuse Yellow Card data in their desperation to stop people getting the protection that vaccination provides.

Don’t be misled.

Notes to editors: 

  1. For media enquiries please contact the DoH Press Office by email at pressoffice@health-ni.gov.uk
  2. Follow us on twitter @healthdpt
  3. 10. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for Media Enquiries Only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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