The goal of influenza vaccination programs is to reduce influenza-associated disease outcomes. Therefore, estimating the reduced burden of influenza as a result of vaccination over time and by age group would allow for a clear understanding of the value of influenza vaccines in the US, and of areas where improvements could lead to greatest benefits.Objective
To estimate the direct effect of influenza vaccination in the US in terms of averted number of cases, medically-attended cases, and hospitalizations over six recent influenza seasons.Design
Using existing surveillance data, we present a method for assessing the impact of influenza vaccination where impact is defined as either the number of averted outcomes or as the prevented disease fraction (the number of cases estimated to have been averted relative to the number of cases that would have occurred in the absence of vaccination).Results
We estimated that during our 6-year study period, the number of influenza illnesses averted by vaccination ranged from a low of approximately 1.1 million (95% confidence interval (CI) 0.6–1.7 million) during the 2006–2007 season to a high of 5 million (CI 2.9–8.6 million) during the 2010–2011 season while the number of averted hospitalizations ranged from a low of 7,700 (CI 3,700–14,100) in 2009–2010 to a high of 40,400 (CI 20,800–73,000) in 2010–2011. Prevented fractions varied across age groups and over time. The highest prevented fraction in the study period was observed in 2010–2011, reflecting the post-pandemic expansion of vaccination coverage.Conclusions
Influenza vaccination programs in the US produce a substantial health benefit in terms of averted cases, clinic visits and hospitalizations. Our results underscore the potential for additional disease prevention through increased vaccination coverage, particularly among nonelderly adults, and increased vaccine effectiveness, particularly among the elderly.