2020 Influenza Vaccine Update

Balancing considerations regarding the unpredictability of timing of onset of the influenza season and concerns that vaccine-induced immunity might wane over the course of a season, vaccination is recommended to be offered by the end of October. Children aged 6 months through 8 years who require 2 doses (see Children Aged 6 Months Through 8 Years) should receive their first dose as soon as possible after the vaccine becomes available to allow the second dose (which must be administered ≥4 weeks later) to be received by the end of October. For those requiring only 1 dose for the season, early vaccination (i.e., in July and August) is likely to be associated with suboptimal immunity before the end of the influenza season, particularly among older adults. Community vaccination programs should balance maximizing the likelihood of persistence of vaccine-induced protection through the season with avoiding missed opportunities to vaccinate or vaccinating after onset of influenza circulation occurs. Efforts should be structured to optimize vaccination coverage before influenza activity in the community begins. Vaccination should continue to be offered as long as influenza viruses are circulating and unexpired vaccine is available. To avoid missed opportunities for vaccination, providers should offer vaccination during routine health care visits and hospitalizations. No recommendation is made for revaccination (i.e., providing a booster dose) later in the season of persons who have already been fully vaccinated.

The extent to which SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, will circulate during the 2020–21 influenza season is unknown. However, it is anticipated that SARS-CoV-2 and influenza viruses will both be active in the United States during the upcoming 2020–21 influenza season. Influenza vaccination programs might need to adapt and extend the duration of vaccination campaigns to accommodate stay-at-home orders and social distancing strategies aimed at slowing the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These circumstances might necessitate consideration of starting vaccination campaigns earlier (i.e., as soon as vaccine is available, which can be as early as July or August) to allow sufficient time to vaccinate the population and avoid some persons going unvaccinated for influenza. When possible, such considerations should be balanced against the potential waning of protection from influenza vaccination, particularly for persons aged ≥65 years. Additional information on SARS-CoV-2 illness is available on the CDC website (https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html). Guidance for vaccine planning during the pandemic is available at https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/pandemic-guidance/index.html.

Optimally, vaccination should occur before onset of influenza activity in the community. However, because timing of the onset, peak, and decline of influenza activity varies, the ideal time to start vaccinating cannot be predicted each season. Moreover, more than one outbreak might occur in a given community in a single year. In the United States, localized outbreaks that indicate the start of seasonal influenza activity can occur as early as October. However, in 27 (75%) of 36 influenza seasons from 1982–83 through 2017–18, peak influenza activity (which often is close to the midpoint of influenza activity for the season) has not occurred until January or later, and in 21 (58%) seasons, the peak was in February or later. Activity peaked in February in 15 (42%) of these seasons.

Several observational studies and a post hoc analysis from a randomized controlled trial have reported decreases in vaccine effectiveness (VE) with increasing time postvaccination within a single influenza season. Waning effects have not been observed consistently across age groups, virus subtypes, and seasons, and observed decreases in protection could be at least in part attributable to bias, unmeasured confounding, or the late-season emergence of antigenic drift variants that are less well-matched to the vaccine viral strains. Some studies suggest waning occurs to a greater degree with influenza A(H3N2) viruses than with influenza A(H1N1) or influenza B viruses. This effect also might vary with recipient age; in some studies, waning was more pronounced among older adults and younger children. Rates of decline in VE have also varied. A multiseason (2011–12 through 2014–15) analysis from the U.S. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness (U.S. Flu VE) Network found that VE decreased by approximately 7% per month for influenza A(H3N2) and influenza B and 6%–11% per month for influenza A(H1N1)pdm09. VE remained greater than zero for at least 5–6 months after vaccination. An analysis of the 2010–11 through 2013–14 seasons noted estimated effectiveness ranging from 54% to 67% during days 0–180 postvaccination; estimated VE was not statistically significant during the period between days 181 and 365. A third multiseason analysis (2010–11 through 2014–15) conducted in Europe noted a decline in VE to 0% at 111 days postvaccination for influenza A(H3N2) viruses. VE against influenza B viruses decreased more slowly, and VE against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses remained roughly stable at 50%–55% through the influenza season.