Association between vaccine adjuvant effect and pre-seasonal immunity. Systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised immunogenicity trials comparing squalene-adjuvanted and aqueous inactivated influenza vaccines
The immunogenicity benefit of inactivated influenza vaccine (IIV) adjuvanted by squalene over non-adjuvanted aqueous IIV was explored in a meta-analysis involving 49 randomised trials published between 1999 and 2017, and 22,470 eligible persons of all age classes. Most vaccines contained 15 μg viral haemagglutinin per strain. Adjuvanted IIV mostly contained 9.75 mg squalene per dose. Homologous pre- and post-vaccination geometric mean titres (GMTs) of haemagglutination-inhibition (HI) antibody were recorded for 290 single influenza (sub-)type arms. The adjuvant effect was expressed as the ratio of post-vaccination GMTs between squalene-IIV and aqueous IIV (GMTR, 145 estimates). GMTRs > 1.0 favoured squalene-IIV over aqueous IIV. For all influenza (sub-)types, the adjuvant effect proved negatively associated with pre-vaccination GMT and mean age. The adjuvant effect appeared most pronounced in young children (mean age < 2.5 years) showing an average GMTR of 3.7 (95% CI: 2.5 to 5.5). With increasing age, GMTR values gradually decreased towards 1.4 (95% CI: 1.0 to 1.9) in older adults. Heterologous antibody titrations simulating mismatch between vaccine and circulating virus (30 GMTR estimates) again showed a larger adjuvant effect at young age. GMT values and their variances were converted to antibody-predicted protection rates using an evidence-based clinical protection curve. The adjuvant effect was expressed as the protection rate differences, which showed similar age patterns as corresponding GMTR values. However for influenza B, the adjuvant effect lasted longer than for influenza A, possibly due to a generally later influenza B virus exposure. Collectively, this meta-analysis indicates the highest benefit of squalene-IIV over aqueous IIV in young children and decreasing benefit with progressing age. This trend is similar for seasonal influenza (sub-)types and the 2009 pandemic strain, by both homologous and heterologous titration. The impact of pre-seasonal immunity on vaccine effectiveness, and its implications for age-specific vaccination recommendations, are discussed.