Despite World Health Organization recommendations, in many countries young children are not targeted for influenza vaccination. To help inform influenza vaccination policy, we examined the occurrence and burden of influenza in healthy children aged 6 to 35 months using data from a recent phase III placebo-controlled influenza vaccine trial conducted in countries in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.
This was an analysis of data from participants included in the placebo arm of a phase III clinical trial in healthy children aged 6 to 35 months (EudraCT no. 2013–001231-51). Included children had never been vaccinated for influenza and were observed for one influenza season. Outcome measures included the occurrence of influenza-like illness (ILI), laboratory-confirmed influenza, virus types/subtypes, severe symptoms and complications of confirmed influenza, and healthcare use associated with confirmed influenza.
Data from 2210 participants were analysed. ILI was reported for 811 participants (36.7%). Of these, 255 participants (31.4%) had 263 virologically confirmed episodes of influenza. The overall influenza attack rate was 11.5%. The most common influenza virus detected was A(H3N2) (40.7%), followed by B/Yamagata (23.6%), A(H1N1) (18.6%), and B/Victoria (8.0%). Grade 3 fever was reported in 24.3% of confirmed episodes, acute lower respiratory infection in 8.7%, acute otitis media in 6.1%, and pneumonia in 1.9%. In most influenza episodes (93.2%), antipyretics, analgesics, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were taken. Antibiotics were prescribed for 41.4% of influenza episodes. More than half of the influenza episodes (57.0%) resulted in outpatient visits. Influenza resulted in overnight hospitalisation in 1.1% of episodes.
Influenza is associated with a significant burden of disease in healthy children. This analysis also revealed that antibiotics continue to be frequently used for young children with influenza.