HIQA assessing enhanced flu vaccines for over 65s


HIQA has published the protocol for its health technology assessment (HTA) on the use of an enhanced inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine in those aged 65 years and older, as part of the HSE’s Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme. The protocol describes the approach that HIQA will use to complete its assessment.

HIQA agreed to undertake this work at the request of the Department of Health to inform the Minister for Health’s decision-making on the inclusion of enhanced flu vaccines in the national immunisation programme.

Dr Máirín Ryan, HIQA’s Deputy CEO and Director of Health Technology Assessment, said, “Annual flu vaccination programmes aim to reduce the burden of flu by targeting those at highest risk of severe disease and hospitalisation.”

In Ireland, people aged 65 years and older can already receive the flu vaccine for free through the Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme. Currently, a standard quadrivalent vaccine is used. In those aged 65 years and older, more than seven out of every 10 people have accessed the annual vaccine in recent years. Despite this, flu continues to represent a considerable burden in this age group with over 1,700 people admitted to hospital due to flu in the 2022-2023 flu season.

Dr Ryan continued, “The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can be reduced in some patient groups (for example, older adults) where the individual’s immune response to the vaccine can be suboptimal. Enhanced flu vaccines have been developed which aim to improve vaccine effectiveness.”

HIQA’s assessment will estimate the burden of flu in those aged 65 years and older in Ireland, and look at the clinical effectiveness, cost effectiveness and budget impact associated with changing the Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme to include use of an enhanced flu vaccine in this population. The assessment will also look at the wider organisational, ethical and social issues associated with such a change.

HIQA will conduct a public consultation on this HTA before finalising the report. Following this consultation, the report will be updated as necessary based on the feedback received. The final HTA will be provided as advice to the Minister for Health to inform a decision on whether or not enhanced flu vaccines will be included in the HSE’s Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Programme.

Read the protocol on www.hiqa.ie.