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Flu vaccine 'may not reduce risk of death in elderly'

Flu vaccine 'may not reduce risk of death in elderly'
2nd September 2008

The influenza vaccine may not reduce the risk of death in elderly people, new research has suggested.

Furthermore, exaggerated reports of the benefits associated with flu vaccines may have stifled the development of newer, improved vaccines for the elderly, according to the study published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Lead author Dr Dean Eurich, clinical epidemiologist and assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta, pointed out that while vaccination rates among elderly patients in the US have gone up from around 15 to 65 per cent over the past 20 years, there has not been an equivalent fall in hospital admissions or overall mortality.

Dr Eurich suggested: "Previous studies were likely measuring a benefit not directly attributable to the vaccine itself, but something specific to the individuals who were vaccinated - a healthy-user benefit or frailty bias."

He added that the "healthy user effect" refers to those patients who take good care of themselves, are well-informed and who as a matter of course ensure that they get vaccinated each year.

Meanwhile, a separate study published in the online Nature journal has revealed that US scientists have recovered antibodies from the 1918 influenza pandemic - which they believe could be used to develop treatments if there is a similar virus in the future.

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