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Prompt evaluation of annual influenza vaccine effectiveness (IVE) is important. IVE is estimated in Ontario using a test-negative design (TND) within a national sentinel surveillance network (SPSN). To explore alternative approaches, we applied the screening method (SM) during five seasons spanning 2007 to 2012 to passive surveillance data to determine whether routinely collected data could provide unbiased IVE estimates. Age-adjusted SM-IVE estimates, excluding 2008/09 pandemic cases and cases with missing immunisation status, were compared with TND-IVE estimates in SPSN participants, adjusted for age, comorbidity, week of illness onset and interval to specimen collection. In four seasons, including the 2009 pandemic, the SM underestimated IVE (22-39% seasonal; 72% pandemic) by 20 to 35% relative to the TND-IVE (58-63% seasonal; 93% pandemic), except for the 2010/11 season when both estimates were low (33% and 30%, respectively). Half of the cases in the routine surveillance data lacked immunisation information; imputing all to be unimmunised better aligned SM-IVE with TND-IVE, instead overestimating in four seasons by 4 to 29%. While the SM approach applied to routine data may offer the advantage of timeliness, ease and efficiency, methodological issues related to completeness of vaccine information and/or case ascertainment may constitute trade-offs in reliability. .


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