Vaccine recommendations for winter influenza season

20 September 2010

WHO/Europe has released interim recommendations on influenza vaccination during the 2010/2011 winter season. It provides advice to Member States on influenza vaccination relating to specific risk groups to be targeted for vaccination, the influenza viruses to be included in vaccination and vaccine safety. During the 2009/2010 northern hemisphere influenza season, the dominant circulating influenza virus was pandemic (H1N1) 2009. Numerous countries deployed pandemic H1N1 vaccine, targeting risk groups according to the recommendations of the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization from July 2009. Since seasonal influenza viruses A(H3N2) and influenza B are currently co-circulating with the pandemic (H1N1) virus in the southern hemisphere winter season, target groups for vaccination during the upcoming 2010/2011 influenza season in the northern hemisphere must include people at risk of severe outcomes from both seasonal and pandemic influenza.

Priority groups that should be considered for immunization include:

  • individuals six months of age and older with chronic heart or lung diseases, metabolic or renal disease, chronic liver disease, chronic neurological conditions, or immunodeficiencies;
  • elderly people over a nationally defined age limit, irrespective of other risk factors;
  • pregnant women;
  • health care workers, including those that work in institutions for older people or those with disabilities;
  • residents of institutions for older or disabled people; and
  • other groups defined on the basis of national data and capacities.

Influenza vaccination should include all three viruses recommended by WHO for inclusion in the influenza vaccines for the northern hemisphere 2010/2011 winter season.

Trivalent vaccines should be considered for logistical reasons, to avoid multiple injections, and to address the high burden of seasonal influenza in elderly populations.