Following the 2009 influenza A/H1N1 (pH1N1) pandemic, both seasonal and pH1N1 viruses circulated in the US during the 2010-2011 influenza season; influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) may vary between live attenuated (LAIV) and trivalent inactivated (TIV) vaccines as well as by virus subtype.
Vaccine type and virus subtype-specific VE were determined for US military active component personnel for the period of September 1, 2010 through April 30, 2011. Laboratory-confirmed influenza-related medical encounters were compared to matched individuals with a non-respiratory illness (healthy controls), and unmatched individuals who experienced a non-influenza respiratory illness (test-negative controls). Odds ratios (OR) and VE estimates were calculated overall, by vaccine type and influenza subtype.
A total of 603 influenza cases were identified. Overall VE was relatively low and similar regardless of whether healthy controls (VE = 26%, 95% CI: -1 to 45) or test-negative controls (VE = 29%, 95% CI: -6 to 53) were used as comparison groups. Using test-negative controls, vaccine type-specific VE was found to be higher for TIV (53%, 95% CI: 25 to 71) than for LAIV (VE = -13%, 95% CI: -77 to 27). Influenza subtype-specific analyses revealed moderate protection against A/H3 (VE = 58%, 95% CI: 21 to 78), but not against A/H1 (VE = -38%, 95% CI: -211 to 39) or B (VE = 34%, 95% CI: -122 to 80).
Overall, a low level of protection against clinically-apparent, laboratory-confirmed, influenza was found for the 2010-11 seasonal influenza vaccines. TIV immunization was associated with higher protection than LAIV, however, no protection against A/H1 was noted, despite inclusion of a pandemic influenza strain as a vaccine component for two consecutive years. Vaccine virus mismatch or lower immunogenicity may have contributed to these findings and deserve further examination in controlled studies. Continued assessment of VE in military personnel is essential in order to better inform vaccination policy decisions.