Background: The efficacy of inactivated influenza vaccines is known to be poor in infants and young children.
Methods: We studied the effect of the adjuvant MF59, an oil-in-water emulsion, on the efficacy of trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) in 4707 healthy children 6 to less than 72 months of age who had not previously been vaccinated against influenza. The children were randomly assigned to three study groups, each of which received the assigned vaccines in two doses, 28 days apart, during two consecutive influenza seasons. Two of the groups were given age-appropriate doses of TIV either with or without the MF59 adjuvant, and the third group was given control (noninfluenza) vaccines to assess their absolute and relative efficacy against influenza-like illness, as confirmed by means of polymerase-chain-reaction (PCR) assay.
Results: Attack rates of influenza-like illness across both influenza seasons were 0.7%, 2.8%, and 4.7% in the adjuvant, nonadjuvant, and control vaccine groups, respectively. The absolute vaccine efficacy rates against all influenza strains (94 of 110 cases were due to vaccine-matched H3N2 viruses) were 86% (95% confidence interval [CI], 74 to 93) for the MF59-adjuvant vaccine (ATIV) and 43% (95% CI, 15 to 61) for the vaccine without the adjuvant (TIV); the relative vaccine efficacy rate for ATIV versus TIV was 75% (95% CI, 55 to 87). The efficacy rates for ATIV were 79% (95% CI, 55 to 90) in children 6 to less than 36 months of age and 92% (95% CI, 77 to 97) in those 36 to less than 72 months of age, as compared with 40% (95% CI, -6 to 66) and 45% (95% CI, 6 to 68), respectively, for TIV. Antibody responses were higher with ATIV and remained so through day 181. The rates of systemic and local reactions to the influenza vaccines with and without the adjuvant were similar in the younger age group (relative risk, 1.04; 95% CI, 0.98 to 1.09), but systemic events in the older age group were more frequent after administration of ATIV (63%) than after administration of TIV (44%) or the control vaccine (50%). Serious adverse events were distributed evenly across the three vaccine groups.
Conclusions: Influenza vaccine with the MF59 adjuvant is efficacious against PCR-confirmed influenza in infants and young children. (Funded by Novartis Vaccines and Diagnostics; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT00644059.).