Tuesday, February 15, 2005
In a new study by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (reported by Reuters and available in the Wall Street Journal (subscribtion only)), doctors found that flu vaccinations did not lower death rates of elderly individuals. The study concludes:
"We conclude, therefore, that there are not enough influenza-related deaths to support the conclusion that vaccination can reduce total winter mortality among the U.S. elderly population by as much as half," study author Lone Simonsen wrote in The Archives of Internal Medicine.
The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article reports further that some doctors believe that vaccinating children may actually be a better strategy for protecting the entire population. According to the study's lead author, Lone Simonsen, "The study should influence the nation's flu-prevention strategy, perhaps by examing vaccination to schoolchildren, the biggest spreaders of the virus." Spokespeople for the Centers for Disease Control, however, noted that no policy changes will occur based on one study and they have changed advisory notices on who should receive the flu vaccine for next fall. However, the WSJ notes that a second study by Emory University's Walter Orenstein(to be published in the American Journal of Epidemiology) also advocates for vaccinating schoolchildren because the flu vaccine is less effectinve in the elderly than in younger people. [bm]