• The impact of influenza vaccination on infection, hospitalisation and mortality in the Netherlands between 2003 and 2015.

      Backer, J A; Wallinga, J; Meijer, A; Donker, G A; van der Hoek, W; van Boven, M (2018-10-11)
      Influenza epidemics annually cause substantial morbidity and mortality. For this reason, vaccination is offered yearly to persons with an elevated risk for complications. Assessments of the impact of vaccination are, however, hampered by year-to-year variation in epidemic size and vaccine effectiveness. We estimate the impact of the current vaccination programme comparing simulations with vaccination to counterfactual simulations without vaccination. The simulations rely on an age- and risk-structured transmission model that tracks the build-up and loss of immunity over successive seasons, and that allows the vaccine match to vary between seasons. The model parameters are estimated with a particle Monte Carlo method and approximate Bayesian computation, using epidemiological data on vaccine effectiveness and epidemic size in the Netherlands over a period of 11 years. The number of infections, hospitalisations and deaths vary greatly between years because waning of immunity and vaccine match may differ every season, which is in line with observed variation in influenza epidemic sizes. At an overall coverage of 21%, vaccination has averted on average 13% (7.2-19%, 95% range) of infections, 24% (16-36%) of hospitalisations, and 35% (16-50%) of deaths. This suggests that vaccination is mainly effective in protecting vaccinees from infection rather than reducing transmission. As the Dutch population continues to grow and age, the vaccination programme is projected (up to 2025) to gain in impact, despite a decreasing infection attack rate.
    • Vaccinating children against influenza increases variability in epidemic size.

      Backer, J A; van Boven, M; VAN DER Hoek, W; Wallinga, J (2018-10-10)
      Seasonal influenza causes a high disease burden. Many influenza vaccination programmes target the elderly and persons at high risk of complications. Some countries have recommended or even implemented a paediatric vaccination programme. Such a programme is expected to reduce influenza transmission in the population, offering direct protection to the vaccinated children and indirect protection to the elderly. We study the impact of a child vaccination programme with an age- and risk-structured transmission model, calibrated to data of 11 influenza seasons in the Netherlands. The model tracks the build-up of immunes and susceptibles in each age cohort over time, and it allows for seasonal variation in vaccine match and antigenic drift. Different vaccination strategies are evaluated for three target age groups (2-3, 2-12 and 2-16 year olds) over the full range of vaccination coverages (0-100%). The results show that the paediatric vaccination programme has only a limited impact on the elderly age groups, which account for most influenza morbidity and mortality. This is due to two notable changes in infection dynamics. First, an age shift is observed: influenza infections are reduced in vaccinated children, but are increased in young adults with limited natural immunity after years of vaccination. These young adults assume the role of driving the epidemic. Second, a year with low influenza activity can be followed by a large epidemic due to build-up of susceptibles. This variation of the infection attack rate increases with increasing vaccination coverage. The increased variability in the infection attack rate implies that health care facilities should be prepared for rare but larger peaks in influenza patients. Moreover, vaccinating the group with the highest transmission potential, results in a larger dependency on a secure vaccine supply. These arguments should be taken into account in the decision to introduce mass vaccination of school-aged children against influenza.