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Old November 5th, 2004, 07:39
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Annual Flu Shot Significantly Reduces Mortality Risk for Seniors, Study Says

[Kaisernetwork.org, Nov 03, 2004] Regular annual flu vaccinations reduce seniors' risk of death by at least 24% compared with seniors who do not receive annual vaccinations, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the Chicago Tribune reports. Researchers from the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, examined data taken from electronic medical records for 26,071 people aged 65 and older between 1996 and 2002 and found that repeated annual flu vaccinations were "much more efficient" than solitary vaccinations at lowering the risk of death from any cause, the Tribune reports. The study found that a first vaccination reduced the risk of death by 10%, and revaccination reduced the risk of death by 24%. According to the study, single vaccinations prevented one person from dying for every 302 vaccinations. Among those who were repeatedly vaccinated, one death was prevented for every 195 vaccinations. According to the study, 64% of people received annual vaccinations in 1996 and 74% of people in 1999 received annual vaccinations (Gorner, Chicago Tribune, 11/3). A total of 5,095 people never received a vaccination (Tanner, AP/Detroit News, 11/3). During the study, 3,485 participants died. The severity of flu epidemics during the study period were mild to moderate, with "no clear epidemic activity" in the 2000-2001 flu season, according to the Tribune. The study found that during epidemic periods, flu vaccinations reduced by 28% the risk of death. An interruption in annual vaccinations -- as could occur this flu season in part because of a national flu vaccine shortage -- contributed to a 25% higher risk of death for the following year. The study "underscores the dangers posed by the U.S. shortage of flu vaccine if the limited supply is not carefully managed to reach the people at highest risk," according to the Tribune. Resuming vaccination after an interruption "brings back protection," lead author Bruno Stricker said.

Analysis
Stricker said, "The most relevant finding from our study is that the more yearly influenza vaccinations a person receives, the lower the mortality rate is in such patients" (Chicago Tribune, 11/3). David Nace, director of influenza programs for the University of Pittsburgh's Institute on Aging, said, "The (government) is convening a panel of ethicists to decide who we should target this vaccine to. We know death rates among the elderly due to flu are going to be the highest, so [the study] will provide some help in that effort." Nace added that it is important for people at high risk of contracting the flu to receive pneumonia shots. Seniors typically require one pneumonia vaccination; however, those with suppressed immune systems or those who received the shot before age 65 may require a booster shot after five years. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, pneumonia vaccines are "often overshadowed by the annual flu vaccine" (Snowbeck, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 11/3).


http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_...=11-03-04#26565
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