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Annual Flu Vaccine Cuts Death Risk in Elderly

Posted - Nov. 3, 2004 at 9:42 a.m.



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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reporting The flu vaccine has been in the news a lot lately. A new study shows just how important it is for the elderly to get a flu shot each year.

Bettie Voordouw, M.D./ Researcher: "Influenza is a common disease which may be potentially fatal, especially in the elderly."

That's why it's so important for the elderly to get vaccinated. But what about getting revaccinated every year - does that mean even bigger benefits?

Bettie Voordouw, M.D./ Researcher: "There had not been any study before that investigated the relation between annual revaccination and mortality risk in this population."

Researchers studied the health records of 26-thousand dutch flu patients who were over age 65 and living in the community.

Bettie Voordouw, M.D./ Researcher: "The effect of revaccination was especially stronger in those individuals who were at higher age in the study."

As reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, in people over age 65, initial vaccination lowered the risk of death by 10% while revaccination cut the risk by 24%. What's more, the older the patient, the bigger the benefit - revaccination among those over age 80 cut the risk of death by 31%.

A possible explanation might be that annual revaccination is a necessary stimulant of the immune system to sustain protection, especially in elderly.

The researchers found that for every 200 elderly people who were revaccinated, one death was prevented.

The study showed that elderly people who skipped an annual flu shot had a greater risk of death than those who got the shot.

But it also showed that after re-starting the vaccine the following year, the risk of death reduced again.

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