Publicatie datum

Influenza seasonality in the tropics and subtropics: when to vaccinate?

Hirve, S., Newman, L.P., Paget, J., Azziz-Baumgartner, E., Fitzner, J., Bhat, N., Vandemaele, K., Zhang, W. Influenza seasonality in the tropics and subtropics: when to vaccinate? PLoS One: 2016, 11(4)
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The timing of the biannual WHO influenza vaccine composition selection and production cycle has been historically directed to the influenza seasonality patterns in the temperate regions of the northern and southern hemispheres. Influenza activity, however, is poorly understood in the tropics with multiple peaks and identifiable year-round activity. The evidence-base needed to take informed decisions on vaccination timing and vaccine formulation is often lacking for the tropics and subtropics.

This paper aims to assess influenza seasonality in the tropics and subtropics. It explores geographical grouping of countries into vaccination zones based on optimal timing of influenza vaccination.

Influenza seasonality was assessed by different analytic approaches (weekly proportion of positive cases, time series analysis, etc.) using FluNet and national surveillance data. In case of discordance in the seasonality assessment, consensus was built through discussions with in-country experts. Countries with similar onset periods of their primary influenza season were grouped into geographical zones.

The number and period of peak activity was ascertained for 70 of the 138 countries in the tropics and subtropics. Thirty-seven countries had one and seventeen countries had two distinct peaks. Countries near the equator had secondary peaks or even identifiable year-round activity. The main influenza season in most of South America and Asia started between April and June. The start of the main season varied widely in Africa (October and December in northern Africa, April and June in Southern Africa and a mixed pattern in tropical Africa). Eight “influenza vaccination zones” (two each in America and Asia, and four in Africa and Middle East) were defined with recommendations for vaccination timing and vaccine formulation. The main limitation of our study is that FluNet and national surveillance data may lack the granularity to detect sub-national variability in seasonality patterns.

Distinct influenza seasonality patterns, though complex, could be ascertained for most countries in the tropics and subtropics using national surveillance data. It may be possible to group countries into zones based on similar recommendations for vaccine timing and formulation. (aut. ref.)