Seasonal flu shots save lives and prevent hospitalizations among nursing home residents, a new study shows.
There has been debate about the effectiveness of flu vaccination in this group of patients, but the findings show that they are beneficial, according to researchers at Brown University in Providence, R.I.
“This study evidences protection for an elderly population for whom vaccine efficacy has been questioned. Annual vaccination is the only way to maximize the benefit of vaccine, no matter what the age,” study co-author Dr. Stefan Gravenstein, an adjunct professor of medicine and health services, policy and practice, said in a university news release.
The researchers analyzed data gathered from more than 1 million U.S. nursing home residents between 2000 and 2009, and found that the better matched the seasonal vaccine was for that year’s flu strain, the lower the rates of flu-related hospitalization and death.
For every 1 percent increase in the match rate between the seasonal vaccine and flu virus, weekly deaths fell and hospitalizations declined among nursing home residents.
Among the 1 million nursing home residents, a 50 percent increase in the match rate in a flu season would save the lives of more than 2,500 people and prevent 3,200 hospitalizations, according to the study published Aug. 24 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Corresponding author Vincent Mor, a professor at Brown’s School of Public Health, said in the news release, “That’s saving lives. That’s really a profound effect.”
The findings likely apply to all seniors, most of whom do not live in nursing homes, Mor added. However, vaccination rates among seniors in the community tend to be much lower than among those in nursing homes.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about flu vaccination.