Influenza is a frequent cause of exacerbations of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Exacerbations are associated with worsening of the airflow obstruction, hospitalisation, reduced quality of life, disease progression, death, and ultimately, substantial healthcare-related costs. Despite longstanding recommendations to vaccinate vulnerable high-risk groups against seasonal influenza, including patients with COPD, vaccination rates remain sub-optimal in this population.
We conducted a systematic review to summarise current evidence from randomised controlled trials (RCTs) and observational studies on the immunogenicity, safety, efficacy, and effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with COPD. The selection of relevant articles was based on a three-step selection procedure according to predefined inclusion and exclusion criteria. The search yielded 650 unique hits of which 48 eligible articles were screened in full-text.
Seventeen articles describing 13 different studies were found to be pertinent to this review. Results of four RCTs and one observational study demonstrate that seasonal influenza vaccination is immunogenic in patients with COPD. Two studies assessed the occurrence of COPD exacerbations 14 days after influenza vaccination and found no evidence of an increased risk of exacerbation. Three RCTs showed no significant difference in the occurrence of systemic effects between groups receiving influenza vaccine or placebo. Six out of seven studies on vaccine efficacy or effectiveness indicated long-term benefits of seasonal influenza vaccination, such as reduced number of exacerbations, reduced hospitalisations and outpatient visits, and decreased all-cause and respiratory mortality.
Additional large and well-designed observational studies would contribute to understanding the impact of disease severity and patient characteristics on the response to influenza vaccination. Overall, the evidence supports a positive benefit-risk ratio for seasonal influenza vaccination in patients with COPD, and supports current vaccination recommendations in this population.