Background: Although influenza causes substantial morbidity and mortality in all age groups, current recommendations emphasize annual immunization for people at high risk for complications of influenza. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of vaccination against influenza in healthy, working adults.
Methods: In the fall of 1994, we recruited working adults from 18 to 64 years of age from in and around the Minneapolis-St. Paul area and randomly assigned them to receive either influenza vaccine or placebo injections. The primary study outcomes included upper respiratory illnesses, absenteeism from work because of upper respiratory illnesses, and visits to physicians' offices for upper respiratory illnesses. The economic benefits of vaccination were analyzed by estimating the direct and indirect costs associated with immunization and with upper respiratory illnesses.
Results: We enrolled a total of 849 subjects. Baseline characteristics were similar in the two groups. During the follow-up period, consisting of the 1994-1995 influenza season (December 1, 1994, through March 31, 1995), those who received the vaccine reported 25 percent fewer episodes of upper respiratory illness than those who received the placebo (105 vs. 140 episodes per 100 subjects, P < 0.001), 43 percent fewer days of sick leave from work due to upper respiratory illness (70 vs. 122 days per 100 subjects, P = 0.001), and 44 percent fewer visits to physicians' offices for upper respiratory illnesses (31 vs. 55 visits per 100 subjects, P = 0.004). The cost savings were estimated to be $46.85 per person vaccinated.
Conclusions: Vaccination against influenza has substantial health-related and economic benefits for healthy, working adults.