An infodemiological investigation of the so-called “Fluad effect” during the 2014/2015 influenza vaccination campaign in Italy: Ethical and historical implications

Naim Mahroum, Abdulla Watad, Roberto Rosselli, Francesco Brigo, Valentina Chiesa, Anna Siri, Dana Ben-Ami Shor, Mariano Martini, Nicola Luigi Bragazzi, Mohammad Adawi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Influenza vaccines represent a major tool to contain the clinical and epidemiological burden generated by influenza. However, in spite of their effectiveness, vaccines are victims of prejudices and false myths, which contribute to the increasing phenomenon of vaccine hesitancy and loss of confidence. Media and, mainly, new media, and information and communication technologies play a major role in disseminating health-related information. While, on the one hand, they can be extremely promising in promoting disease prevention, on the other hand, they can also have a negative impact on population's health attitudes and behaviors when delivering information not based on scientific evidences. The “Fluad-case” is an excellent example of the crucial role of an adequate information campaign. Following the cluster of deaths allegedly related to the administration of the adjuvanted influenza vaccine “Fluad” during the 2014–2015 influenza campaign, the Italian health authorities and regulatory bodies decided the withdrawal of two potentially contaminated Fluad batches. This fostered a huge media coverage, with resulted in negatively impacting on influenza vaccination coverage. Monitoring and tracking the Fluad-related web searches, we showed that Liguria resulted the Italian region with the highest number of Fluad-related website searches and that, interestingly, Fluad was searched also in Regions in which this vaccine was not distributed. A positive moderate correlation between accessing Fluad-related websites and overall influenza vaccination coverage was found (r = 0.66 ([95%CI 0.29–0.86], p = 0.0026). Considering subjects ≥65 years, who are the subjects for which the Fluad vaccination is recommended, the correlation resulted r = 0.49 ([95%CI 0.03–0.78], p = 0.0397). As such, health authorities and decision-makers should promote high-quality communication campaigns in order to raise awareness of vaccination practices.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)712-718
Number of pages7
JournalHuman Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 4 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Taylor & Francis.


Table 1. Timeline of the Fluad-case. Abbreviations: AIFA (Italian Medicines Agency); EMA (European Medicines Agency); FIMMG (Italian Federation of General Practitioners); ISS (Italian Institute of Health); LHU (Local Health Unit); NNP (National Network of Pharmacovigilance); PRAC (Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee); WHO (World Health Organization).

FundersFunder number
European Medicines Agency
Italian Federation of General Practitioners
Italian Institute of Health
Italian Medicines Agency
National Network of Pharmacovigilance
Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee
World Health Organization
Agenzia Italiana del Farmaco, Ministero della Salute
Istituto Superiore di Sanità


    • Fluad
    • ethics of health communication and vaccination
    • influenza vaccine and influenza vaccination campaign
    • infodemiology
    • web 2.0


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