Shinhye et al. look into the impact of COVID-19 measures on influenza circulation in Canada between 2020 and 2022 and the vaccine effectiveness against late-season influenza illness due to A(H3N2) in 2022.
Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, the circulation of influenza virus stopped in Canada, as a result from the implementation of public health measures against COVID-19 e.g. physical distancing and wearing masks. In spring 2022, when these measures were relaxed, influenza virus re-emerged.
Vaccine effectiveness against late-season influenza
VE analyses were done using a test-negative design1 including nasal or nasopharyngeal specimens. The analyses included test results from patients older than 1 year, within 7 days of acute onset of influenza-like illness in community-based clinics or COVID-19 sites in the Canadian provinces of Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario.
Among the 327 eligible specimens collected during the analysis period, 13% tested positive for influenza A(H3N2). All belonged to the clade 3C.2a1b.2a.2 considered antigenically different from the A(H3N2) 3C.2a1b.2a.1 strain in the 2021/22 influenza vaccine. However, the influenza A(H3N2) clade found in Canada was similar to that in the vaccine for the upcoming northern hemisphere 2022/23 season.
Study results support composition decision for 2022/23 influenza vaccine
Adjusted (age group, province, comorbidity and calendar month) VE against influenza A(H3N2) was 36% (95% confidence interval -38 to 71) in the three Canadian provinces. The authors note that the “confidence intervals around our VE estimates are wide and we cannot rule out an interpretation of no protection. However, point estimates remain the most likely findings”.
Additionally, the results are comparable to 2021/22 VE estimates against influenza A(H3N2) reported from the United States and from Europe [2,3]. Authors also highlight that “despite mismatch of the vaccine clade 3C.2a1b.2a.1 strain against the circulating clade 3C.2a1b.2a.2 viruses and an unusually long time since vaccination, the Canadian SPSN shows that the 2021/22 vaccine reduced the risk of medically attended influenza A(H3N2) illness by about one third during the late spring wave.”
Finally, based on their analysis, the authors conclude that “the findings reinforce the World Health Organization’s decision to switch to a clade 3C.2a1b.2a.2 strain for the northern hemisphere 2022/23 vaccine”.
1 Design used in vaccine efficacy studies using cases tested positive for a specific disease against control group that tested negative at same facility.
References/notes to editors:
 Kim Shinhye, Chuang Erica SY, Sabaiduc Suzana, Olsha Romy, Kaweski Samantha E, Zelyas Nathan, Gubbay Jonathan B, Jassem Agatha N, Charest Hugues, De Serres Gaston, Dickinson James A, Skowronski Danuta M. Influenza vaccine effectiveness against A(H3N2) during the delayed 2021/22 epidemic in Canada. Euro Surveill. 2022;27(38):pii=2200720. https://doi.org/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2022.27.38.2200720
 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Interim US flu vaccine effectiveness (VE) data for 2021-2022. Atlanta: CDC. [Accessed 6 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/vaccines-work/2021-2022.html
 Santé publique France. Grippe. Bilan préliminaire de l’épidémie de grippe 2021-22. [Influenza. Preliminary assessment of the 2021/22 influenza epidemic. Saint-Maurice: Santé publique France; 2022. French. Available from: https://www.santepubliquefrance.fr/content/download/440665/document_file/Bulletin_grippe_bilan_21-22.pdf
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Influenza vaccine effectiveness against A(H3N2) during the delayed 2021/22 epidemic in Canada
Article Publication Date
DMS is Principal Investigator on grants received to her institution from the Public Health Agency of Canada and the BCCDC Foundation for Public Health in support of this work. GDS has received grants for investigator-initiated studies unrelated to influenza vaccine from Pfizer, paid to his institution. JBG is a paid consultant scientific editor for GIDEON Informatics, Inc., which is unrelated to the current work. Other authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.