Background: The 2009 influenza pandemic was caused by the A/H1N1pdm09 virus, which was subsequently included in the seasonal vaccine, up to 2016/2017, as the A/H1N1 strain. This provided a unique opportunity to investigate the antibody response to H1N1pdm09 over time.
Methods: Healthcare workers (HCWs) were immunized with the AS03-adjuvanted H1N1pdm09 vaccine in 2009 (N = 250), and subsequently vaccinated with seasonal vaccines containing H1N1pdm09 for 4 seasons (repeated group), <4 seasons (occasional group), or no seasons (single group). Blood samples were collected pre and at 21 days and 3, 6, and 12 months after each vaccination, or annually (pre-season) from 2010 in the single group. The H1N1pdm09-specific antibodies were measured by the hemagglutination inhibition (HI) assay.
Results: Pandemic vaccination robustly induced HI antibodies that persisted above the 50% protective threshold (HI titers ≥ 40) over 12 months post-vaccination. Previous seasonal vaccination and the duration of adverse events after the pandemic vaccination influenced the decision to vaccinate in subsequent seasons. During 2010/2011-2013/2014, antibodies were boosted after each seasonal vaccination, although no significant difference was observed between the repeated and occasional groups. In the single group without seasonal vaccination, 32% of HCWs seroconverted (≥4-fold increase in HI titers) during the 4 subsequent years, most of whom had HI titers <40 prior to seroconversion. When excluding these seroconverted HCWs, HI titers gradually declined from 12 to 60 months post-pandemic vaccination.
Conclusions: Pandemic vaccination elicited durable antibodies, supporting the incorporation of adjuvant. Our findings support the current recommendation of annual influenza vaccination in HCWs.
Clinical trials registration: NCT01003288.