Background: Different types of influenza vaccines are currently produced worldwide. Vaccination of pregnant women is recommended internationally, while healthy adults are targeted in North America.
Objectives: To identify, retrieve and assess all studies evaluating the effects (efficacy, effectiveness and harm) of vaccines against influenza in healthy adults, including pregnant women.
Search methods: We searched the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) (The Cochrane Library 2013, Issue 2), MEDLINE (January 1966 to May 2013) and EMBASE (1990 to May 2013).
Selection criteria: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) or quasi-RCTs comparing influenza vaccines with placebo or no intervention in naturally occurring influenza in healthy individuals aged 16 to 65 years. We also included comparative studies assessing serious and rare harms.
Data collection and analysis: Two review authors independently assessed trial quality and extracted data.
Main results: We included 90 reports containing 116 data sets; among these 69 were clinical trials of over 70,000 people, 27 were comparative cohort studies (about eight million people) and 20 were case-control studies (nearly 25,000 people). We retrieved 23 reports of the effectiveness and safety of vaccine administration in pregnant women (about 1.6 million mother-child couples).The overall effectiveness of parenteral inactivated vaccine against influenza-like illness (ILI) is limited, corresponding to a number needed to vaccinate (NNV) of 40 (95% confidence interval (CI) 26 to 128). The overall efficacy of inactivated vaccines in preventing confirmed influenza has a NNV of 71 (95% CI 64 to 80). The difference between these two values depends on the different incidence of ILI and confirmed influenza among the study populations: 15.6% of unvaccinated participants versus 9.9% of vaccinated participants developed ILI symptoms, whilst only 2.4% and 1.1%, respectively, developed laboratory-confirmed influenza.No RCTs assessing vaccination in pregnant women were found. The only evidence available comes from observational studies with modest methodological quality. On this basis, vaccination shows very limited effects: NNV 92 (95% CI 63 to 201) against ILI in pregnant women and NNV 27 (95% CI 18 to 185) against laboratory-confirmed influenza in newborns from vaccinated women.Live aerosol vaccines have an overall effectiveness corresponding to a NNV 46 (95% CI 29 to 115).The performance of one-dose or two-dose whole virion pandemic vaccines was higher, showing a NNV of 16 (95% CI 14 to 20) against ILI and a NNV of 35 (95% CI 33 to 47) against influenza, while a limited impact on hospitalisation was found (NNV 94, 95% CI 70 to 1022).Vaccination had a modest effect on time off work and had no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates. Inactivated vaccines caused local harms. No evidence of association with serious adverse events was found, but the harms evidence base was limited.The overall risk of bias in the included trials is unclear because it was not possible to assess the real impact of bias.
Authors' conclusions: Influenza vaccines have a very modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost in the general population, including pregnant women. No evidence of association between influenza vaccination and serious adverse events was found in the comparative studies considered in the review. This review includes 90 studies, 24 of which (26.7%) were funded totally or partially by industry. Out of the 48 RCTs, 17 were industry-funded (35.4%).