Live attenuated versus inactivated influenza vaccine in infants and young children

N Engl J Med. 2007 Feb 15;356(7):685-96. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa065368.


Background: Universal vaccination of children 6 to 59 months of age with trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine has recently been recommended by U.S. advisory bodies. To evaluate alternative vaccine approaches, we compared the safety and efficacy of intranasally administered live attenuated influenza vaccine with those of inactivated vaccine in infants and young children.

Methods: Children 6 to 59 months of age, without a recent episode of wheezing illness or severe asthma, were randomly assigned in a 1:1 ratio to receive either cold-adapted trivalent live attenuated influenza vaccine (a refrigeration-stable formulation of live attenuated intranasally administered influenza vaccine) or trivalent inactivated vaccine in a double-blind manner. Influenza-like illness was monitored with cultures throughout the 2004-2005 influenza season.

Results: Safety data were available for 8352 children, and 7852 children completed the study according to the protocol. There were 54.9% fewer cases of cultured-confirmed influenza in the group that received live attenuated vaccine than in the group that received inactivated vaccine (153 vs. 338 cases, P<0.001). The superior efficacy of live attenuated vaccine, as compared with inactivated vaccine, was observed for both antigenically well-matched and drifted viruses. Among previously unvaccinated children, wheezing within 42 days after the administration of dose 1 was more common with live attenuated vaccine than with inactivated vaccine, primarily among children 6 to 11 months of age; in this age group, 12 more episodes of wheezing were noted within 42 days after receipt of dose 1 among recipients of live attenuated vaccine (3.8%) than among recipients of inactivated vaccine (2.1%, P=0.076). Rates of hospitalization for any cause during the 180 days after vaccination were higher among the recipients of live attenuated vaccine who were 6 to 11 months of age (6.1%) than among the recipients of inactivated vaccine in this age group (2.6%, P=0.002).

Conclusions: Among young children, live attenuated vaccine had significantly better efficacy than inactivated vaccine. An evaluation of the risks and benefits indicates that live attenuated vaccine should be a highly effective, safe vaccine for children 12 to 59 months of age who do not have a history of asthma or wheezing. ( number, NCT00128167 [].).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Influenza Vaccines* / adverse effects
  • Influenza, Human / epidemiology
  • Influenza, Human / prevention & control*
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Male
  • Respiratory Sounds
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vaccines, Attenuated / adverse effects


  • Influenza Vaccines
  • Vaccines, Attenuated

Associated data