Prevention of Influenza
The most effective way to prevent influenza or severe outcomes from the illness is vaccination. Safe and effective vaccines have been available and used for more than 60 years. Among healthy adults, influenza vaccine can prevent 70% to 90% of influenza-specific illness. Among the elderly, the vaccine reduces severe illnesses and complications by up to 60%, and deaths by 80%. Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk of serious influenza complications, and for people who live with or care for high-risk individuals.
In 2010, the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on immunization (SAGE) requested the establishment of the Working Group on Influenza Vaccines and Immunization (WGIVI) with the primary objective to prepare for a SAGE evidence-based review and updating of WHO recommendations on the use of seasonal influenza vaccine (e.g. priority target groups) with a particular focus on low and middle income countries (LMIC) and with a view to update the 2005 WHO influenza vaccine position paper.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends annual vaccination for: Pregnant women at any stage of pregnancy, children aged 6 month to 5 years, the elderly (65 or over), people with chronic medical conditions and healthcare professionals.
Influenza vaccination is most effective when circulating viruses are well matched with vaccine viruses. Influenza viruses are constantly changing, and the WHO Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN), a partnership of National Influenza Centres around the world, monitors the influenza viruses circulating in humans. WHO annually recommends a vaccine composition that targets the three most representative strains in circulation.