Infants and children are at increased risk of severe influenza virus infection and its complications. Influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) varies by age, influenza season, and influenza virus type/subtype. This study’s objective was to examine the effectiveness of inactivated influenza vaccine against outpatient influenza illness in the pediatric population over 9 influenza seasons after the 2009 A(H1N1) pandemic.
During the 2011–2012 through the 2019–2020 influenza seasons at outpatient clinics at 5 sites of the US Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network, children aged 6 months to 17 years with an acute respiratory illness were tested for influenza using real-time, reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Vaccine effectiveness was estimated using a test-negative design.
Among 24 148 enrolled children, 28% overall tested positive for influenza, 3017 tested positive for influenza A(H3N2), 1459 for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09, and 2178 for influenza B. Among all enrollees, 39% overall were vaccinated, with 29% of influenza cases and 43% of influenza-negative controls vaccinated. Across all influenza seasons, the pooled VE for any influenza was 46% (95% confidence interval, 43–50). Overall and by type/subtype, VE against influenza illness was highest among children in the 6- to 59-month age group compared with older pediatric age groups. VE was lowest for influenza A(H3N2) virus infection.
Analysis of multiple seasons suggested substantial benefit against outpatient illness. Investigation of host-specific or virus-related mechanisms that may result in differences by age and virus type/subtype may help further efforts to promote increased vaccination coverage and other influenza-related preventative measures.