Print Friendly  |  
  • LinkedIn
  • Add to Favorites

 Flu Vaccines Spare Even the Frailest Elderly, Study Finds

Flu vaccines can save even the frailest in hospitals and nursing homes, Hong Kong researchers have concluded.
Some health experts have worried that flu vaccines may do more harm than good for those elderly in hospitals, homes or other “institutions.” But researchers at the Fung Yiu King and Queen Mary hospitals in Hong Kong pored over thousands of worldwide studies—some dating as far back as 1946—and re-examined the data for outcomes.
They found that vaccinations correspondent to a 37 percent reduction of pneumonia (especially when the year’s vaccine matched the strain of that year’s virus—42 percent), and a 34 percent reduction in deaths from pneumonia or flu.
Additionally, “we found a trend of reduction in” flu-like symptoms, corresponding author Tuen-Ching Chan writes in the latest issue of the Journal of the American Medical Directors’ Association.
“The benefit of influenza vaccination in older adults is an ongoing controversy,” Tuen-Ching says. “Many previous reviews found inconsistent conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccination in community-dwelling older adults but a protective effect could be found in institutionalized older adults.”
For most providers here in the states, Tuen-Ching and colleagues are stating no more than the obvious.
But their findings were nonetheless warmly greeted by Mission Health Services President and Chief Executive Officer Gary Kelso.
“We know that influenza among the elderly can be serious, and it’s why we promote getting vaccinated to all of our residents each flu season,” says Kelso, who is an Eden Alternative mentor and a board member of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living.  “Equally important is the proper immunization of staff and frontline caregivers, and AHCA/NCAL has been active in the past in sharing best practices from the CDC and other health groups to encourage that.”
Indeed, statistics kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that the vaccination message has gotten through to the elderly better than to younger adults. The “flu season” appears to be winding down now, with only Texas and Hawaii showing unusually high levels of the virus, CDC says. But of those who were hospitalized or died from flu-like illnesses, 60 percent were between the ages of 18 and 64.
CDC officials blamed the results on low vaccination rates among younger adults.   
“It’s a vigilant fight our members wage each year,” Kelso tells us, “and this study is further proof on the need to help prevent influenza from inadvertently coming into our centers.”
E-mail Bill Myers at Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.
Facebook.png   Twitter   Linked-In   ProviderTV   Subscribe

Sign In