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Obesity May Hinder Flu Shot's Effectiveness
Date:10/25/2011

mmunity, and I always urge my obese patients at any age to get a flu shot," said Dr. Neil Schachter, a professor of pulmonary medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.

The fact that their response to the flu shot is impaired has significant clinical implications, he said. "They may be candidates for the double flu shot approach that we give to elderly patients -- one shot in early fall and another in January," he said. "This may offer better protection for obese patients to avoid the flu or at least reduce severity of the infection and reduce risk of complications."

Dr. Louis Aronne, founder and director of the Comprehensive Weight Control Program at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York City, said that overweight and obese people may represent another group of people who are at high risk for flu and flu-related complications. He said more study is needed to see if these people would benefit from two shots, instead of one.

The bigger picture here is that there needs to be a medical specialty dedicated to caring for people who are obese, said Dr. Scott Kahan, an obesity expert at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

"Dosages of certain medications often have to be changed based on weight and, in this case, the flu vaccine dosage or administration may need to be changed," he said. "It may also be that we need enhanced prevention or other adjunctive strategies in addition to the vaccine for flu protection among people who are overweight or obese," Kahan added. These issues are apparent in the treatment or prevention of other disease and conditions as well.

More information

To find where you can get a flu shot, visit the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

SOURCES: Louis Aronne, M.D., founder and director, Comprehensive Weight Control Program, New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weil
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