Fact Check-Posts about the World Health Organization’s adverse reaction database lack context

The World Health Organization’s (WHO) VigiAccess database lists adverse reactions (ADRs) reported by people after taking a drug or vaccine. It does not confirm that medicinal products or their active ingredients caused any observed symptoms.

Posts on Facebook (here) and Twitter (here) show a chart – with the WHO logo at the top – of drugs and vaccines, the years they have been in use and the total number of reported adverse reactions.

The Facebook user who shared the graph says: “So would you rather take the WHO drug that has just over 5,000 adverse events reported over 20 years or the one the WHO reports has had nearly 2,500,000 adverse events reported in less than 2 years? Asking for a friend… #AxTheVax #MedicalFreedom #WeWillNotComply”

The “WHO drug” they are referring to is ivermectin, which has been written about in numerous previous fact checks (here), (here), (here), (here), (here), (here) and (here).

Firstly, ivermectin is not a “WHO drug” – it was discovered by Satoshi Ōmura of Kitasato University and William Campbell of Merck (here). It is on the WHO’s List of Essential Medicines (, but the organization has previously recommended against using Ivermectin to treat COVID-19 except for clinical trials due to a lack of data demonstrating its benefits (as reported here ).

Secondly, although the figures collated in the chart appear to be accurate as of the date it was created (Nov. 12, 2021), VigiAccess data – a web-based tool for searching the WHO’s global database (VigiBase) – only shows potential side effects that have been reported to its Programme for International Drug Monitoring (WHO PIDM) (see the FAQ section ).

A WHO spokesperson told Reuters in an email: “Information in VigiAccess on potential side effects should not be interpreted as meaning that the medicinal product or its active substance either caused the observed effect or is unsafe to use. Confirming a causal link is a complex process that requires a thorough scientific assessment and detailed evaluation of all available data. The information on this website, therefore, does not reflect any confirmed link between a medicinal product and a side effect.”

They added: “VigiAccess cannot be used to compare the safety profiles of different medicinal products… and VigiAccess cannot provide sufficient context to make such comparisons possible.”

Meanwhile, the data in VigiBase are provided by the more than 140 members of the WHO PIDM, who share their data to support global pharmacovigilance. VigiBase has been maintained by Uppsala Monitoring Centre (UMC) since 1978, meaning it also oversees VigiAccess. UMC is an independent, non-profit foundation that explores the benefits and risks of medicinal products.

A UMC spokesperson told Reuters in an email: “Unfortunately, over recent months, we have seen many versions of this meme shared on social media in highly misleading ways. UMC can confirm that this graphic was not created by either Uppsala Monitoring Centre or WHO.”

They added: “It is not possible to compare different substances based on this information and conclude that one is safer than another.”

Uppsala’s reports website explains that the large number of reports of ADRs to COVID vaccines is due to their rollout being “the biggest mass vaccination programme in history” and “because these are new vaccines and they are so important to stopping the pandemic, health authorities at national and international level have been actively encouraging reporting.” (here)

It adds that the amount of feedback received shows that “we have more data about the real-world safety of these products than any other medicinal product before.”


Missing context. VigiAccess data does not prove a causal relationship between a drug or vaccine and its reported side effects. It is also not possible to compare the safety of medicinal products using information on the database.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our work to fact-check social media posts here .