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More good news about the high-dose flu shot

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November 23rd, 2015
flu shot
flu shot

In the largest study of its kind to date, researchers have evaluated the effect of the high-dose flu shot among the most vulnerable seniors—those living in long-term care facilities.

Influenza, which can easily spread in a long-term care facility, is a major cause of hospitalizations usually due to pneumonia. In addition, flu can lead to heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes, according to the study’s lead author, Stefan Gravenstein, M.D., director of the Center for Geriatrics and Palliative Care at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Most people in long-term care have several other medical conditions, which can challenge an already aging immune system and make it difficult to fight off the flu if it strikes. 

More effective for seniors

The regular-dose flu vaccine may not work well on older adults because of this weakened immunity, so scientists developed a high-dose flu vaccine that became available a few years ago. Since then, many studies have shown that it is more effective for older adults who live in the community. 

In this study, which was sponsored by the University Hospitals Case Medical Center and presented at the October 10, 2015, meeting of the Infectious Disease Society of America’s annual meeting in San Diego, researchers gave 50,000 participants age 65-plus either the regular dose or the high-dose flu vaccine. The participants were selected from 823 long-term care facilities in 38 states. They found, after controlling for other factors, that the high-dose vaccine significantly reduced the risk of being hospitalized during the flu season by 1.2%. Although that may not seem like a very high percentage, the large number of participants means that hundreds of nursing home residents who received the high dose avoided a hospitalization.

Whether or not the high-dose flu vaccine will become standard practice in long-term care facilities will be decided by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

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