Flu Vaccine Effectiveness During a Season With Mixed Outbreaks of Four Influenza Viruses in Canada

The Serious Outcomes Surveillance (SOS) Network was established to monitor seasonal influenza complications among hospitalized Canadian adults and to assess the effectiveness of influenza vaccination against severe outcomes. Andrew, et al. (2017) report age- and strain-specific vaccine effectiveness (VE) in preventing severe outcomes during a season characterized by mixed outbreaks of four different influenza strains.

This prospective, multicenter, test-negative case-control study evaluated the VE of trivalent influenza vaccine (TIV) in the prevention of laboratory-confirmed influenza-hospitalization in adults aged ≥16 years (all adults) and adults aged 16–64 years (younger adults). The SOS Network identified hospitalized patients with diagnoses potentially attributable to influenza during the 2011/12 influenza season. Swabs collected at admission were tested by reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT PCR) or viral culture to discriminate influenza cases (positive) from controls (negative). VE was calculated as 1-odds ratio (OR) of vaccination in cases versus controls × 100.

Overall, in all adults, the unadjusted and adjusted VEs of TIV against influenza-hospitalization were 41.8% (95% Confidence Interval [CI]: 26.0, 54.3), and 42.8% (95% CI: 23.8, 57.0), respectively. In younger adults (16–64 years), the unadjusted and adjusted VEs of TIV against influenza-hospitalization were 35.8% (95% CI: 4.5, 56.8) and 33.2% (95% CI: −6.7, 58.2), respectively. In the all adults group, adjusted VE against influenza A/H1N1 was 72.5% (95% CI: 30.5, 89.1), against A/H3N2 was 86.1% (95% CI: 40.1, 96.8), against B/Victoria was 40.5% (95% CI: −28.9, 72.6), and against B/Yamagata was 32.3% (95% CI: −8.3, 57.7). The adjusted estimate of early season VE (from November 1 to March 11) was 54.4% (95% CI: 29.7–70.4), which was higher than late season (from March 11 to May 25) VE estimate (VE: 29.7%, 95% CI: -5.3, 53.1).

The researchers say these results suggest that TIV was highly effective against A viruses and moderately effective against B viruses during a mild season characterized by co-circulation of four influenza strains in Canada. Findings underscore the need to provide VE assessment by subtype/lineage as well as the timing of vaccination (early season vs late season) to accurately evaluate vaccine performance and thus guide public health decision-making.

Reference: Andrew MK, et al. Influenza vaccine effectiveness against influenza-related hospitalization during a season with mixed outbreaks of four influenza viruses: a test-negative case-control study in adults in Canada. BMC Infectious Diseases; 201717:805

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