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Article

Vaccine recommendations for influenza season 2020-2021

Published Updated

Almost 1.6 million people in Norway belong to groups with an increased risk of complications from influenza. They are recommended to take the seasonal influenza vaccine.

Illustrasjonsbilde influensa
Illustrasjonsbilde influensa. Foto: NTB/Scanpix

Almost 1.6 million people in Norway belong to groups with an increased risk of complications from influenza. They are recommended to take the seasonal influenza vaccine.


Influenza can lead to pneumonia, stroke and worsening of chronic underlying diseases. It is estimated that an average of 900 people die in Norway each year as a result of the disease. In some years, as many as 2,000 people could die from influenza. The influenza vaccine can save many of these lives.

Groups recommended to take the influenza vaccine

The influenza vaccine is especially recommended for:

  • Pregnant women in the 2nd and 3rd trimester, and pregnant women in the 1st trimester with additional risks
  • Residents in care homes and nursing homes
  • Everyone from the age of 65
  • Children and adults with:
    • type 1 and 2 diabetes
    • chronic lung disease (including asthma), cardiovascular disease (other than well-controlled high blood pressure), liver failure or kidney failure
    • chronic neurological disease or injury
    • impaired immune function due to illness or treatment (e.g. cancer, HIV, rheumatoid arthritis and other diseases)
    • severe obesity (BMI over 40)
    • other serious and / or chronic illnesses where influenza poses a serious health risk, after individual assessment by a doctor

In addition, the influenza vaccine is recommended for:

  • Health personnel and other employees in the health and care service who have close contact with patients during treatment or care
  • People living with immunosuppressed patients
  • Pig breeders and others who have regular contact with live pigs.

Can prevent serious illness

Elderly people and people with chronic diseases are more likely to become seriously ill from influenza than the rest of the population. Pneumonia is a common complication. In case of severe influenza, organ failure and the need for breathing assistance may require admission to hospital.

People with cardiovascular disease are more prone to heart attacks and strokes during the influenza season. An influenza infection can also make it difficult to control blood sugar levels for diabetic patients and lead to asthma exacerbation and deterioration among others with impaired lung function. The influenza vaccine can prevent serious influenza and thus help protect against such incidents.

Following influenza, you may experience that any chronic diseases you have may become worse. Some people also experience permanent deterioration in health after a serious influenza, and the need for help can often increase so much that they can no longer live at home.

About the seasonal influenza vaccine 2020/21

Seasonal influenza vaccines contain three or four types of influenza viruses - two A strains and one or two B strains. Influenza vaccines differ from others vaccines in that they must be adapted to the mutations in the virus and therefore change from year to year.

The effect of the influenza vaccine varies from year to year, but is on average about 60 per cent. This means that approximately 6 out of 10 of those vaccinated are protected against influenza. The effect depends on the characteristics of the virus, the vaccine and those who are vaccinated. Some people get influenza despite being vaccinated, but it seems that the vaccine can reduce the risk of a serious disease course.

Inactivated influenza vaccines

Inactivated influenza vaccines are non-live vaccines for injection, which contain virus parts or purified virus components from four influenza viruses (quadrivalent). The lower age limit is 6 months and there is no upper age limit.

Adjuvanted inactivated influenza vaccine

Adjuvanted inactivated influenza vaccine is a non-live vaccine for injection, which contains purified virus components from three influenza viruses (trivalent). In addition, it contains an adjuvant; a substance that increases the effect of the vaccine by increasing the immune response in the body. The vaccine is intended for people with weak immune systems and is this season available to residents in nursing homes and care homes, people on the waiting list for this housing and people over the age of 80 with extensive need for help to take care of their own health. The lower age limit is 65 years.

Live attenuated influenza vaccine

Live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) contains cold-adapted, temperature-sensitive, weakened influenza viruses and is administered in the form of nasal sprays. LAIV has a lower age limit of 2 years and an upper age limit of 17 years. As the vaccine is live, it should not be given to people with clinical immunosuppression or pregnant women.

Composition of the seasonal vaccine

The World Health Organization (WHO) has established a network of national influenza centres that monitor influenza activity and recommend the composition of next season's vaccine.

For season 2020/2021, the quadrivalent influenza vaccine (inactivated and live attenuated vaccine) for the northern hemisphere contains these viruses, according to WHO’s recommendation:

  • an A/Guangdong-Maonan/SWL1536/2019 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus;
  • an A/Hong Kong/2671/2019 (H3N2)-like virus;
  • a B/Washington/02/2019 (B/Victoria lineage)-like virus; and
  • a B/Phuket/3073/2013 (B/Yamagata lineage)-like virus

The adjuvanted inactivated vaccine contains both A-viruses and the B(Victoria)-virus in the list above.

Registration in Norwegian Immunisation Registry SYSVAK

Influenza vaccination shall be notified to SYSVAK. If the person who is vaccinated logs into the vaccine service at helsenorge.no, they can see their vaccinations.