Beyond Prevention of Influenza: The Value of Flu Vaccines

A recent review by Barbara Resnick et al, makes the case for a dire need to encourage immunisation for older adults in long-term care settings, as well as the community. Not only do influenza symptoms appear to be more sever for older adults, but recent studies have established a significant link between influenza and influenza-related falls and hip fractures. Moreover, as people age their risk of non-respiratory complications is amplified by both immune and non-immune processes. Indirect outcomes of influenza include the risks of strokes and heart attacks and there are greater incidences in these events among those who are not vaccinated.

As such, the authors call for a special emphasis to be given to protecting older people through vaccination. One flu shot a year appears to be as effective as taking a statin to lower cholesterol or quitting smoking as a way to prevent a myocardial infarction. They moreover call for health care workers to be vaccinated, as they come face-to-face both with people who present with influenza and people who are at high risk for complications from influenza. Thus, health care workers, who often fail to recognise when they are infected with influenza, can unwittingly serve as vectors to their patients.

In order to encourage higher adult vaccination uptake among older people and care workers, recommendations include:

  • Educating patients and providers regarding the risks of influenza infection
  • Identifying a champion to provide ongoing encouragement, education, and implement incentives for immunisation
  • Making immunisation accessible for individuals and required within institutional settings for residents and staff

Read the full article here.