Document Type


Publication Date



School of Medicine




Background: Vaccinehasbeenoneofthemostsuccessfulpublichealthinterventionstodate.However,vaccines are pharmaceutical products that carry risks so that many adverse events (AEs) are reported after receiving vaccines. Traditional adverse event reporting systems suffer from several crucial challenges including poor timeliness. This motivates increasing social media-based detection systems, which demonstrate successful capability to capture timely and prevalent disease information. Despite these advantages, social media-based AE detection suffers from serious challenges such as labor-intensive labeling and class imbalance of the training data.

Results: Totacklebothchallengesfromtraditionalreportingsystemsandsocialmedia,weexploittheircomplementary strength and develop a combinatorial classification approach by integrating Twitter data and the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) information aiming to identify potential AEs after influenza vaccine. Specifically, we combine formal reports which have accurately predefined labels with social media data to reduce the cost of manual labeling; in order to combat the class imbalance problem, a max-rule based multi-instance learning method is proposed to bias positive users. Various experiments were conducted to validate our model compared with other baselines. We observed that (1) multi-instance learning methods outperformed baselines when only Twitter data were used; (2) formal reports helped improve the performance metrics of our multi-instance learning methods consistently while affecting the performance of other baselines negatively; (3) the effect of formal reports was more obvious when the training size was smaller. Case studies show that our model labeled users and tweets accurately.

Conclusions: WehavedevelopedaframeworktodetectvaccineAEsbycombiningformalreportswithsocialmedia data. We demonstrate the power of formal reports on the performance improvement of AE detection when the amount of social media data was small. Various experiments and case studies show the effectiveness of our model.

Source Citation

Wang, J., Zhao, L., Ye, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2018). Adverse event detection by integrating twitter data and VAERS. Journal of Biomedical Semantics, 9(1).


© The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.