We evaluated the effect of immunisation with influenza vaccines on preventing influenza A or B infections (efficacy), influenza-like illness (ILI) and its consequences (effectiveness), and determined whether exposure to influenza vaccines is associated with serious or severe harms. The target populations were healthy adults, including pregnant women and newborns.
The preventive effect of parenteral inactivated influenza vaccine on healthy adults is small: at least 40 people would need vaccination to avoid one ILI case (95% confidence interval (CI) 26 to 128) and 71 people would need vaccination to prevent one case of influenza (95% CI 64 to 80). Vaccination shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalisation.
The real impact of biases could not be determined for about 70% of the included studies (e.g. insufficient reporting details, very different scores among the items evaluated). About 20% of the included studies (mainly cohorts) had a high risk of bias. Just under 10% had good methodological quality.