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Is flu vaccination for elderly effective?

Flu Vaccination for Elderly: Not as Effective as Previously Thought

The Lancet let the cat out of the bag.

Research published last week in the British medical journal The Lancet shows that a flu vaccination for people over age 65 is not nearly as effective as previously thought.

Study leader – Tom Jefferson, M.D. – told The Associated Press (AP) that it’s generally assumed that flu shots are around 80 percent effective for the elderly. In the current study, researchers analyzed more than 60 studies conducted over the past 40 years. Their conclusion: Flu vaccines for the elderly are effective in reducing the risk of a hospitalization due to influenza less than 30 percent of the time.

Vaccine effectiveness was found to be somewhat better for people who live in assisted care facilities.

You can be sure this is not welcome news for officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). October is one of the busiest times of the year for the CDC when an all-out effort is underway to sell the flu vaccine to Americans. I don’t mean “sell” in the literal sense. You won’t get telemarketing calls from the CDC. (Not yet, anyway.) But at this time of year, some CDC officials are busy giving interviews and appearing on television to plant seeds of fear in the minds of as many citizens as possible in hopes that everyone will pick up the phone and schedule a flu shot.

The AP also noted that the results of the Lancet study are similar to the results of National Institutes of Health research that found no evidence of lives saved by giving vaccines to the elderly.

“Efficacy and Effectiveness of Influenza Vaccines in Elderly People: A Systematic Review” The Lancet, Vol. 366, No. 9490, 9/17/05,
“Flu Shots Not as Effective in Elderly as Thought” The Associated Press, 9/22/05,