Despite efforts to design better vaccines for older adults, the risk for serious complications of influenza remains disproportionately high. Identifying correlates of vaccine effectiveness and understanding the heterogeneity of health outcomes in older adults are key to the vaccine development pipeline. We sought correlates of protection against laboratory-confirmed influenza illness (LCII) in a 4-year randomized trial of standard versus high-dose influenza vaccination of adults 65 years and older. To this end, we quantified serum hemagglutination-inhibition (HAI) titers and interferon-gamma (IFNγ) and interleukin-10 (IL-10) secretion by virus-challenged peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Of the 608 participants included, 26 developed either A/H3N2-(n = 17) or B-LCII (n = 9) at 10-20 weeks post-vaccination. Antibody titres for A/H3N2 at 4-weeks post-vaccination were significantly associated with protection against LCII, where every 1-standard deviation increase reduced the odds of A/H3N2-LCII by 53%. Although B-titres did not correlate with protection against B-LCII, the fold-increase in IFNγ:IL-10 ratios from pre- to 4-weeks post-vaccination was significantly associated with protection against B-LCII, where every 1-standard deviation increase reduced the odds by 71%. Our results suggest that both antibody and cell-mediated immune measures are valuable and potentially complementary correlates of protection against LCII in vaccinated older adults, although this may depend on the viral type causing infection.
Keywords: antibody; cell-mediated immunity; correlates of protection; influenza; older adults; vaccination.