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Flu Shot is Effective for Seniors, New Review Reports

Update Date: Nov 13, 2014 11:12 AM EST

Every year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people older than six-months-old to get the flu vaccine. According to the agency, the vaccine is the best form of protection against influenza. In a new review, researchers examined the effectiveness of the flu shot for seniors and concluded that the shot can protect the elderly, particularly in times when the flu is widespread.

For this review, the researchers headed by Edwin R. van den Heuvel of Eindhoven University of Technology in The Netherlands, looked at 35 previously published studies that involved patients over 60-years-old who sought out medical care due to flu-like symptoms. The studies, conducted from 2007 to 2012, recorded whether or not the patients were vaccinated and had laboratory confirmation of positive flu infections.

The researchers discovered that during times when the flu was widespread, seniors who were vaccinated had a 28 to 58 percent lower chance of testing positive for the flu. The researchers reported that the vaccine's protective effect was stronger when the vaccine matched the season's circulating strain. The team added that the vaccine was still somewhat effective even when the vaccine did not match the circulating strain.

"Based on our findings, we believe that governments, health agencies, and other institutes should try to maximize influenza vaccination uptake among the elderly population," van den Heuvel said. "Thus our message would be that seniors should be vaccinated for influenza."

"This reinforces what we already know, the vaccine works modestly well for seniors," added Michael L. Jackson of Group Health Research Institute in Seattle according to Reuters. Jackson wrote a commentary, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases, regarding the review. "When it's offered in the fall is the best time to get it."

The study, "Effectiveness of seasonal influenza vaccine in community-dwelling elderly people: a meta-analysis of test-negative design case-control studies," was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

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