Researchers concluded that adults who take the flu vaccine may help the elderly population in their communities as well. The study was published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases on September 9. The research showed that old people are less likely to get the flu when at least one-third of the adults in their community are vaccinated.
In preparation for the next flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that everyone over 6 months should be taking the annually flu vaccine offered by their county.
Glen B. Taksler, study author and researcher at the Cleveland Clinic Academic Medical Center, said in a news release that their findings suggest that the flu vaccination among healthy adults would not only help their health, but also the higher risk individuals from their community. Taksler estimated that nearly one in 20 cases of flu-like illnesses in the elderly would have been prevented if more study participants had received the flu vaccine.
For the study, Taksler and his research team analyzed and associated the rates of the US flu vaccination for adults between 18 and 60 and flu-like illnesses among 3 million health care beneficiaries 61 and older. The statistics he analyzed were from 2002 to 2010.
His group found that in states where at least 30% of the 18 to 60 year old population received the flu vaccine, the elderly had a 20% lower chance of getting a flu-like illness. In the cases where the elderly were also immunized against the flu, findings showed that the decline in risk was twice as large than in senior citizens who have not received the vaccine at all.
Taksler explains that our immune system weakens with age, therefore people over 60 are far more susceptible to the disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported in the past few years that nearly 90% of flu-related deaths have occurred in people over the age of 64. Whereas more than 50% of the individuals who were hospitalized because of flu-related illnesses were senior citizens.
The team’s research did not associate children vaccination with flu-like illnesses in the elderly though. What this suggests is that, oftentimes, vaccinations in adults offer elderly more health protection, since their interactions are more common.
Researchers said that their study does not bring any evidence showcasing a direct correlation between vaccinated adults and a reduced risk of getting the flu among seniors. However, they noted that community vaccination may somehow improve the overall protection of the majority of the individuals.
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