Medical Research: What is the background for this study?
Dr. Grijalva: Influenza is an important cause of disease. Every year influenza causes more than 200,000 hospitalizations in the US. The most effective strategy to prevent influenza infections is vaccination. Several studies have shown that influenza vaccines can prevent fever or respiratory symptoms caused by influenza. However, whether influenza vaccines can prevent more serious complications of influenza such as pneumonia, remains unclear
This was a multicenter collaboration between academic institutions and the centers for disease control and prevention. We used data from the Etiology of Pneumonia in the community or EPIC study, a large prospective study of hospitalizations for pneumonia conducted between 2010 and 2012. The EPIC study enrolled patients from Chicago, IL, Salt Lake City, UT, and Memphis and Nashville, TN. The main goal of the EPIC study was to determine the causes of pneumonia in children and adults hospitalized with pneumonia.
Medical Research:? What are the main findings?
Dr. Grijalva: We conducted a case-control study using data from EPIC. Our study included more than 2700 patients hospitalized for pneumonia, including both children and adults. Approximately 6% of these patients had influenza pneumonia and were identified as cases. Other patients hospitalized for pneumonia that was not caused by influenza were the controls. We compared the history of influenza vaccination between cases and controls. We found that influenza vaccination was associated with a reduced risk of influenza pneumonia that required hospitalization. The estimated vaccine effectiveness was 57%. This means that about 57% of hospitalizations due to influenza-associated pneumonia could be prevented through influenza vaccination.
Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?
Dr. Grijalva: The benefits of influenza vaccines are not restricted to prevention of fever or respiratory symptoms. Influenza vaccines are also effective in preventing hospitalization for influenza pneumonia, which is a serious complication of influenza infections.
It is especially important to understand these benefits now that we have influenza vaccines available and we are preparing for the upcoming influenza season.
Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Dr. Grijalva: In subgroup analyses, we noted that the estimated influenza vaccine effectiveness seemed lower for older adults and for those patients with immunosuppressive conditions, such as malignancies or HIV infection. Additional studies are needed to identify optimal strategies to protect these vulnerable subjects.
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Carlos G. Grijalva, MD MPH (2015). Flu Vaccines Prevent Over Half of Hospitalizations For Influenza Pneumonia