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Doubts Surfacing About Flu Vaccine's Effectiveness for Elderly

Thursday, September 11, 2008 by: Jo Hartley
Tags: 3131 Medium, news, trends

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(NewsTarget) The annual influenza vaccine has been recommended for people over age 65 for over forty years as a way to protect this segment of the population from serious winter illness and death. There is growing concern about its effectiveness in protecting the elderly from the influenza virus, however. A significant number of experts are now sharing the belief that the vaccine does not work well for people over the age of 70. This age group accounts for approximately three-quarters of all influenza fatalities.

A recent study just released contends that previous studies measured not the actual protection against the flu virus but a difference between the people who get vaccines and those who don't.

The study was based on an analysis of medical charts of thousands of elderly patients. The study concluded that patients who were healthy overall and conscientious about their health were more likely to get an influenza vaccine. Those who already had health issues or were frail and not caring for themselves independently were less likely to receive the shot.

The issues of health and frailty were not incorporated into previous estimations of the vaccine's effectiveness and likely affected conclusions about the vaccine's effectiveness.

The influenza vaccine has not been widely subjected to placebo-controlled trials. These trials are considered the most accurate test and indicator of a vaccine's effectiveness. The only large study was conducted by Dutch researchers in 1994. It concluded that in patients between the ages of 60-69 the vaccine was 57 percent effective in preventing influenza. In patients over the age of 70, the vaccine was 23 percent effective in preventing influenza. Unfortunately, this estimate is not considered accurate because this study was not designed to examine this age group.

Another oddity was discovered as well. Even though the percentage of older people who received the vaccine more than tripled between 1980 and 2001, there was no reduction in the death rate.

Vaccines work by forcing the immune system to recognize and respond to incoming threats. It is necessary to realize and remember that the immune system slows down as people age. For this reason, older adults do not respond as well to vaccines as younger adults.

In fact, a recent study performed at the Center for Vaccine Development at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine has concluded that elderly patients require four times the amount of antigens present in a standard dose of the flu vaccine to achieve the same immune response that healthy adults under age 40 have.

Even in light of these findings, the C.D.C. has made no plans to change its vaccine recommendations for the elderly. The agency has, however, financed studies to find more effective influenza vaccines for the elderly population.

About the author

Jo Hartley
Wife, Mother of 8, and Grandmother of 2
Jo is a 41 year old home educator who has always gravitated toward a natural approach to life. She enjoys learning as much as possible about just about anything!
http://loftymatters.com - Current Events
http://winemaiden.com - Simply Abundant Living

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