Very elderly can benefit from high-dose flu shots

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vaccinationThere have been concerns about the efficacy of vaccinating the very old against the flu especially debilitated folks who dwell in nursing homes because their immune systems may not respond to the vaccine. But a study recently presented at the IDWeek meeting, and covered by MedPage Today, suggests that even these people can benefit from a high dose flu vaccine.

Over two years, Dr. Richard Zimmerman and colleagues from the University of Pittsburgh, gave 205 nursing home residents either a high-dose shot containing three strains of influenza virus antigens, or a shot with the standard level of vaccine. The participants average ages were between 86 and 87 years, and all needed assistance with the activities of daily living.

Thirty days after the vaccination, the investigators assessed the levels of antibody production the participants achieved against the viruses contained in the vaccines. They found that the antibody responses during the first year of study were significantly greater among participants who received the higher dose vaccination. In the second year, the response was again greater for 2 of the three strains. Dr. Zimmerman noted that about 30 percent of the participants took part during both years of the study, and suggested that the lack of effect for the one strain might have been because they had already been vaccinated against it.

These results must be considered preliminary, ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross commented, since they have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. However, if they are found to be robust, it will do much to improve the lives of frail elderly persons, as influenza can be a very serious and debilitating condition in this population, he continued.