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BMC Infect Dis. 2015 Mar 20;15:137. doi: 10.1186/s12879-015-0882-3.

Application of the screening method to monitor influenza vaccine effectiveness among the elderly in Germany.

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Immunization Unit, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
Immunization Unit, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
Charité - University Medicine Berlin, Berlin, Germany.
Immunization Unit, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.
Immunization Unit, Robert Koch Institute, Berlin, Germany.



Elderly people are at increased risk for severe influenza illness and constitute therefore a major target-group for seasonal influenza vaccination in most industrialized countries. The aim of this study was to estimate influenza vaccine effectiveness (VE) among individuals aged 60+ years over three seasons and to assess if the screening method is a suitable tool to monitor influenza VE in this particular target-group in Germany.


We identified laboratory-confirmed influenza cases aged 60+ years through the national communicable disease reporting system for seasons 2010/11, 2011/12 and 2012/13. Vaccination coverage (VC) data were retrieved from a database of health insurance claims representing ~85% of the total German population. We applied the screening method to calculate influenza subtype-specific VE and compared our results with VE estimates from other observational studies in Europe.


In total, 7,156 laboratory-confirmed influenza cases were included. VE against all influenza types ranged between 49% (95% confidence interval [CI]: 39-56) in 2011/12 and 80% (95% CI: 76-83%) in 2010/11. In 2010/11 subtype-specific VE against influenza A(H1N1)pdm and B was 76% and 84%, respectively. In the following seasons, VE against influenza A(H1N1)pdm, A(H3N2) and B was 87%, -9% , 74% (2011/12), and 74%, 39%, 73% (2012/13). VE was higher among hospitalized compared to non-hospitalized influenza A cases. Seventeen observational studies from Europe reporting subtype-specific VE among the elderly were identified for the respective seasons (all applying the test-negative design) and showed comparable subtype-specific VE estimates.


According to our study, influenza vaccination provided moderate protection against laboratory-confirmed influenza A(H1N1)pdm and B in individuals aged 60+ but no or only little protection against A(H3N2). Higher VE among hospitalized cases might indicate higher protection against severe influenza disease. Based on the available data, the screening method allowed us to assess subtype-specific VE in hospitalized and non-hospitalized elderly persons. Since controlling for several important confounders was not possible, the applied method only provided crude VE estimates. However, given the precise VC-data and the large number of cases, the screening method provided results being in line with VE estimates from other observational studies in Europe that applied a different study design.

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