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Influenza vaccine effectiveness among patients with cancer: a population-based study using health administrative and laboratory testing data from Ontario, Canada

Blanchette PS, Chung H, Pritchard KI, Earle CC, Campitelli MA, Buchan SA, Schwartz KL, Crowcroft NS, Gubbay JB, Karnauchow T, Katz K, McGeer AJ, McNally JD, Richardson DC, Richardson SE, Rosella LC, Simor A, Smieja M, Zahariadis G, Campigotto A, Kwong JC. J Clin Oncol. 2019; Aug 29 [Epub ahead of print]. DOI: 10.1200/JCO.19.00354.


Purpose — Seasonal influenza vaccination is recommended for patients with cancer despite concerns of disease or treatment-associated immunosuppression. The objective of this study was to evaluate vaccine effectiveness (VE) against laboratory-confirmed influenza for patients with cancer.

Patients and Methods — We conducted an observational test-negative design study of previously diagnosed patients with cancer 18 years of age and older who underwent influenza testing during the 2010-2011 to 2015-2016 influenza seasons in Ontario, Canada. We linked individual-level cancer registry, respiratory virus testing, and health administrative data to identify the study population and outcomes. Vaccination status was determined from physician and pharmacist billing claims. We used multivariable logistic regression to estimate VE, adjusting for age, sex, rurality, income quintile, cancer characteristics, chemotherapy exposure, comorbidities, previous health care use, influenza season, and calendar time.

Results — We identified 26,463 patients with cancer who underwent influenza testing, with 4,320 test-positive cases (16%) and 11,783 (45%) vaccinated. Mean age was 70 years, 52% were male, mean time since diagnosis was 6 years, 69% had solid tumor malignancies, and 23% received active chemotherapy. VE against laboratory-confirmed influenza was 21% (95% CI, 15% to 26%), and VE against laboratory-confirmed influenza hospitalization was 20% (95% CI, 13% to 26%). For patients with solid tumor malignancies, VE was 25% (95% CI, 18% to 31%), compared with 8% (95% CI, –5% to 19%) for patients with hematologic malignancies (P = .015). Active chemotherapy usage did not significantly affect VE, especially among patients with solid tumor cancer.

Conclusion — Our results support recommendations for influenza vaccination for patients with cancer. VE was decreased for patients with hematologic malignancies, and there was no significant difference in VE among patients with solid tumor cancer receiving active chemotherapy. Strategies to optimize influenza prevention among patients with cancer are warranted.

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