OBJECTIVES: To assess the effectiveness of influenza vaccine in reducing the occurrence of acute otitis media (AOM) in infants and children.
SEARCH METHODS: We searched CENTRAL (2014, Issue 6), MEDLINE (1946 to July week 1, 2014), EMBASE (2010 to July 2014), CINAHL (1981 to July 2014), LILACS (1982 to July 2014), Web of Science (1955 to July 2014) and reference lists of articles to July 2014.
SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials (RCTs) comparing influenza vaccine with placebo or no treatment in infants and children aged younger than six years old. We included children of either sex and of any ethnicity, with or without a history of recurrent AOM.
DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors independently screened studies, assessed trial quality and extracted data. We performed statistical analyses using the random-effects and fixed-effect models and expressed the results as risk ratio (RR), risk difference (RD) and number needed to treat to benefit (NNTB) for dichotomous outcomes, with 95% confidence intervals (CI).
MAIN RESULTS: We included 10 trials (six trials in high-income countries and four multicentre trials in high-, middle- and low-income countries) involving 16,707 children aged six months to six years. Eight trials recruited participants from a healthcare setting. Nine trials (and all five trials that contributed to the primary outcome) declared funding from vaccine manufacturers. Four trials reported adequate allocation concealment and nine trials reported adequate blinding of participants and personnel. Attrition was low for all trials included in the analysis.The primary outcome showed a small reduction in at least one episode of AOM over at least six months of follow-up (five trials, 4736 participants: RR 0.80, 95% CI 0.67 to 0.96; RD -0.04, 95% CI -0.07 to -0.02; NNTB 25, 95% CI 15 to 50).The subgroup analyses (i.e. number of courses, settings, seasons or types of vaccine administered) showed no differences.There was a reduction in the use of antibiotics in vaccinated children (two trials, 1223 participants: RR 0.70, 95% CI 0.59 to 0.83; RD -0.15, 95% CI -0.30 to -0.00).There was no significant difference in the utilisation of health care for the one trial that provided sufficient information to be included. The use of influenza vaccine resulted in a significant increase in fever (six trials, 10,199 participants: RR 1.15, 95% CI 1.06 to 1.24; RD 0.02, 95% CI -0.00 to 0.05) and rhinorrhoea (six trials, 10,563 children: RR 1.17, 95% CI 1.07 to 1.29; RD 0.09, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.16) but no difference in pharyngitis. No major adverse events were reported.Compared to the protocol, the review included a subgroup analysis of AOM episodes by season, and changed the types of influenza vaccine from a secondary outcome to a subgroup analysis.
AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: Influenza vaccine results in a small reduction in AOM. The observed reduction with the use of antibiotics needs to be considered in the light of current recommended practices aimed at avoiding antibiotic overuse. Safety data from these trials are limited. The benefits may not justify the use of influenza vaccine without taking into account the vaccine efficacy in reducing influenza and safety data. The quality of the evidence was high to moderate. Additional research is needed.