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It is unclear whether high-dose influenza vaccine (HD) is more effective at reducing mortality among seniors.


This study aimed to evaluate the relative vaccine effectiveness (rVE) of HD.


We linked electronic medical record databases in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Medicare administrative files to examine the rVE of HD vs standard-dose influenza vaccines (SD) in preventing influenza/pneumonia-associated and cardiorespiratory mortality among VHA-enrolled veterans 65 years or older during the 2012/13, 2013/14 and 2014/15 influenza seasons. A multivariable Cox proportional hazards model was performed on matched recipients of HD vs SD, based on vaccination time, location, age, sex, ethnicity and VHA priority level.


Among 569,552 person-seasons of observation, 207,574 (36%) were HD recipients and 361,978 (64%) were SD recipients, predominantly male (99%) and white (82%). Pooling findings from all three seasons, the adjusted rVE estimate of HD vs SD during the high influenza periods was 42% (95% confidence interval (CI): 24–59) against influenza/pneumonia-associated mortality and 27% (95% CI: 23–32) against cardiorespiratory mortality. Residual confounding was evident in both early and late influenza periods despite matching and multivariable adjustment. Excluding individuals with high 1-year predicted mortality at baseline reduced the residual confounding and yielded rVE of 36% (95% CI: 10–62) and 25% (95% CI: 12–38) against influenza/pneumonia-associated and cardiorespiratory mortality, respectively. These were confirmed by results from two-stage residual inclusion estimations.


The HD was associated with a lower risk of influenza/pneumonia-associated and cardiorespiratory death in men during the high influenza period.


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