May 2021

{Photo credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH}Photo credit: Samy Rakotoniaina/MSH

by Dr. Lynn Lieberman Lawry, Senior Gender Advisor for the USAID Medicines, Technologies, and Pharmaceutical Services (MTaPS) Program

Monitoring patients who are taking a new medicine, including vaccines, is critical for patient safety. This type of monitoring, also known as pharmacovigilance (PV), helps detect, assess, understand, and prevent adverse effects of a medicine-related problem. PV is critical for determining the true safety and efficacy of a product, including identification of good and bad effects. USAID MTaPS supports low- and middle-income countries in building or strengthening PV systems and developing capacity to generate, analyze, and use safety data to improve health outcomes and the quality of care.

With the rapid introduction of the new COVID-19 vaccines, PV is an important aspect of the vaccine roll-out. Although safety is always the first concern with new medicines, it is well known that males and females respond to vaccines very differently. Therefore, we need to understand the difference between sex and gender: