Seniors Don't Benefit From Flu Vaccine

Armen Hareyan's picture
Flu Vaccine and Seniors

Flu vaccine is found to be less effective for seniors than it was thought.

A team of researchers from Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle examined 1173 aged from 65 to 94 suffering from pneumonia and another group with 2346 who did not suffer the condition. All participants in both groups were properly vaccinated, but they were all at equal risk for getting pneumonia virus.

Researchers say that older people suffering chronic conditions, such as lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, have even higher flu risk despite vaccination. Scientists thought that flu vaccine provides with 20-30% protection against pneumonia, but this research suggests that the protection level is only from 5% to 10%.

Dr. Pascal James Imperato from State University of New York Downstate Medical Center in New York City says: "We know that elderly people do not form sufficient antibodies to certain vaccines, the flu vaccine included. In addition, people in their 70s and 80s and 90s are more prone to pneumonia with or without influence. A number of these pneumonias may be secondary to other causes aside from influenza."
Pneumonia is a condition occurring as a complication of flu virus. The study considered all types of pneumonia, but flu-related pneumonia accounts only for 15% flu cases. This means the situation is not that bad. Flu vaccine is still effectively protecting against flu-related pneumonia, but at the same time it is really less effective for seniors than for younger people.

About 36000 in US die from flu and 90% of them are seniors, who are very vulnerable to viruses. Effectiveness of flu vaccine is different each year, it depends on how successful virus strain predictions for a current year will be. Flu vaccine cuts infection rates from 40% to 60% in the best cases, so we don't need to expect fantastic results, but we still need to stay immunized.

CDC Gives Top 3 “To Do” List for Seniors during Flu Season

Enjoying your golden years can mean embracing exciting and new activities, enjoying grandchildren, and spending time with friends. To stay healthy and active, there are important actions you can take to keep health threats like the flu from knocking you off your feet. People 65 and older are most vulnerable to getting severe illness from the flu.

Fortunately, there are actions you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu. First, take time to get a flu vaccine. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect against flu,” says Dr. Nancy Cox, Director of the Influenza Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We have an all-time high supply of vaccine this season and because flu viruses can cause illness into the spring, getting the vaccine even in December or later can still protect against flu.”


Second, make sure to take everyday steps that can help stop the spread of germs like covering your nose and mouth with a tissue and washing your hands with soap and water often. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth since germs spread this way.

Remember to stay away from others if you are sick to keep from spreading your illness to others.

And third, if you do find yourself sick with flu symptoms, such as a high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches, there are flu antiviral drugs that can help. These drugs should be started within 48 hours of getting sick, but must be prescribed by a doctor.

So don’t let the flu take you out of commission this season. Take these easy steps to take care.

Did you know that each year on average:

• 36,000 people die from flu-related complications.

•90 percent of those deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

•More than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; more than half of these are people 65 years and older.

More On Flu Vaccine at CDC Flu Protection, also see how Personal Precautions Offer Flu Protection from the Texas Department of Health.



As a retired industrial scientist after nearly 50 years' employment in the health care industry, I am pleased to see this fine example of evidence-based medicine in action. The regrettable conclusion for vaccine manufacturers, health care providers and reimbursers: Annual flu shots of cocktails made under current protocols do not prevent the flu, hence are a waste of money and a potential hazard to some. A possible contributing factor is the high mutation rate of the large variety of flu viruses making prediction and targeting of the coming year's mutant virus cocktail difficult, hence rarely successful. However, this may change if scientists solve the virus mutation problem or come up with better ways to anticipate next year's virus population. Until such time, save your money and buy cough drops instead.