Influenza vaccination in the elderly: 25 years follow-up of a randomized controlled trial. No impact on long-term mortality

Ruud Andreas Fritz Verhees*, Carel Thijs, Ton Ambergen, Geert Jan Dinant, Johannes Andreas Knottnerus

*Corresponding author for this work

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1 Citation (Web of Science)


Influenza vaccination is proven effective in preventing influenza. However, long-term effects on mortality have never been supported by direct evidence. In this study we assessed the long-term outcome of influenza vaccination on mortality in the elderly by conducting a 25-year follow-up study of a RCT on the efficacy of influenza vaccination as baseline. The RCT had been conducted in the Netherlands 5 years before vaccination was recommended for those aged >65 and 17 years before recommending it for those aged >60. The RCT included 1838 community-dwelling elderly aged. 60 that had received an intramuscular injection with the inactivated quadrivalent influenza vaccine ( n = 927) or placebo ( n = 911) during the 1991/1992 winter. In our follow-up study, outcomes included all-cause mortality, influenza-related mortality and seasonal mortality. Unadjusted and adjusted hazard ratios ( HRs) were estimated by Cox regression and sub-hazard ratios ( SHRs) by competing risk models. Secondary analyses included subgroup analyses by age and disease status. The vital status up to January 1, 2017 was provided in 1800/1838 ( 98%) of the cases. Single influenza vaccination did not reduce all-cause mortality when compared to placebo ( adjusted HR 0.95, 95% CI 0.85-1.05). Also, no differences between vaccination and placebo group were shown for underlying causes of death or seasonal mortality. In those aged 60-64, median survival increased with 20.1 months ( 95% CI 2.4-37.9), although no effects on all-cause mortality ( adjusted HR 0.86, 95% CI 0.72-1.03) could be demonstrated in survival analysis. In conclusion, this study did not demonstrate a statistically significant effect following single influenza vaccination on long-term mortality in community-dwelling elderly in general. We propose researchers designing future studies on influenza vaccination in the elderly to fit these studies for longer-term follow-up, and suggest age-group comparisons in observational research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number0216983
Number of pages14
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2019


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