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Vaccine. 2009 Oct 23;27(45):6305-11. doi: 10.1016/j.vaccine.2009.07.006.

Challenges in evaluating influenza vaccine effectiveness and the mortality benefits controversy.

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Research Service (151), VA Medical Center, 1 Veterans Drive, Minneapolis, MN 55417, USA.


Randomized, controlled trials are the gold standard study design. However, ethical constraints and practical considerations may necessitate other types of studies for evaluating influenza vaccine effectiveness in the elderly--a high priority group for annual vaccination in many countries. Observational studies therefore comprise the bulk of the vaccine effectiveness evidence in older persons, but these types of studies can be susceptible to selection bias and residual confounding. All observational studies should utilize strategies to minimize the impact of bias and confounding. Recent studies questioning the plausibility of reported mortality benefits among vaccinated elderly persons may themselves be based on assumptions that are susceptible to important limitations and multiple biases. Future studies that incorporate prospectively collected information on functional status, life expectancy, and other types of data may provide additional insights into these concerns. At present, even after taking into account the potential for residual bias and confounding, most studies confirm the benefits of vaccination among the elderly for reducing hospitalization and death.

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