Background: When new vaccine components or platforms are developed, they will typically need to demonstrate noninferiority or superiority over existing products, resulting in the assessment of relative vaccine effectiveness (rVE). This review aims to identify how rVE evaluation is being performed in studies of influenza to inform a more standardized approach. Methods: We conducted a systematic search on PubMed, Google Scholar, and Web of Science for studies reporting rVE comparing vaccine components, dose, or vaccination schedules. We screened titles, abstracts, full texts, and references to identify relevant articles. We extracted information on the study design, relative comparison made, and the definition and statistical approach used to estimate rVE in each study. Results: We identified 63 articles assessing rVE in influenza virus. Studies compared multiple vaccine components (n = 38), two or more doses of the same vaccine (n = 17), or vaccination timing or history (n = 9). One study compared a range of vaccine components and doses. Nearly two-thirds of all studies controlled for age, and nearly half for comorbidities, region, and sex. Assessment of 12 studies presenting both absolute and relative effect estimates suggested proportionality in the effects, resulting in implications for the interpretation of rVE effects. Conclusions: Approaches to rVE evaluation in practice is highly varied, with improvements in reporting required in many cases. Extensive consideration of methodologic issues relating to rVE is needed, including the stability of estimates and the impact of confounding structure on the validity of rVE estimates.
- All age groups