The 2009 influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 pandemic highlighted the need for improved scientific knowledge to support better pandemic preparedness and seasonal influenza control. The Southern Hemisphere Influenza and Vaccine Effectiveness Research and Surveillance (SHIVERS) project, a 5-year (2012 –2016) multiagency and multidisciplinary collaboration, aimed to measure disease burden, epidemiology, aetiology, risk factors, immunology, effectiveness of vaccination and other prevention strategies for influenza and other respiratory infectious diseases of public health importance.
Two active, prospective, population-based surveillance systems were established for monitoring influenza and other respiratory pathogens among those hospitalized patients with acute respiratory illness and those enrolled patients seeking consultations at sentinel general practices. In 2015, a sero-epidemiological study will use a sample of patients from the same practices. These data will provide a full picture of the disease burden and risk factors from asymptomatic infections to severe hospitalized disease and deaths and related economic burden. The results during the first 2 years (2012–2013) provided scientific evidence to (a) support a change to NZ’s vaccination policy for young children due to high influenza hospitalizations in these children; (b) contribute to the revision of the World Health Organization’s case definition for severe acute respiratory illness for global influenza surveillance; and (c) contribute in part to vaccine strain selection using vaccine effectiveness assessment in the prevention of influenza-related consultations and hospitalizations.
In summary, SHIVERS provides valuable international platforms for supporting seasonal influenza control and pandemic preparedness, and responding to other emerging/endemic respiratory-related infections.