Reduced effectiveness of repeat influenza vaccination: distinguishing among within-season waning, recent clinical infection, and subclinical infection

J Infect Dis. 2024 Apr 30:jiae220. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiae220. Online ahead of print.


Studies have reported that prior-season influenza vaccination is associated with higher risk of clinical influenza infection among vaccinees. This effect might arise from incomplete consideration of within-season waning and recent infection. Using data from the US Flu Vaccine Effectiveness (VE) Network (2011-2012 to 2018-2019 seasons), we found that repeat vaccinees were vaccinated earlier in a season by one week. After accounting for waning VE, repeat vaccinees were still more likely to test positive for A(H3N2) (OR=1.11, 95%CI:1.02-1.21) but not for influenza B or A(H1N1). We found that clinical infection influenced individuals' decision to vaccinate in the following season while protecting against clinical infection of the same (sub)type. However, adjusting for recent clinical infections did not strongly influence the estimated effect of prior-season vaccination. In contrast, we found that adjusting for subclinical infection could theoretically attenuate this effect. Additional investigation is needed to determine the impact of subclinical infections on VE.

Keywords: immunogenicity; infection block hypothesis; infection history; influenza; test negative design; vaccine; waning vaccine protection.