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When It Comes to Flu, the More Who Get Vaccine, the Better

While not possible to protect all, studies show shots cut deaths, hospital visits

TUESDAY, Oct. 28 (HealthDay News) -- The more people who get the flu vaccine, the better it is for everyone, according to two new studies.

In the first study, researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto and colleagues found that a universal vaccination program implemented in the Ontario province in 2000 helped lower flu-related deaths, hospitalizations, and visits to emergency departments and doctors' offices there. Under the program, the Ontario government offers and promotes free flu vaccinations to everyone over the age of 6 months.

However, the study also showed that only 38 percent of all household members still received the shots, and that the increase in immunization rates did not reduce mortality and health-care use in older people, particularly those over 75 years of age, as much as it did in younger people. This suggests that higher immunization rates of younger people might still help protect older people from the flu, the researchers said.

The second study, done by a team at University Medical Center, Utrecht, in the Netherlands, found that vaccinating all health-care workers in a 30-bed nursing home department could reduce patient infections by up to 60 percent. They also calculated that vaccinating seven health-care workers would, on average, prevent one patient at the home from developing the flu.

This study in "herd immunity" found that it was not possible to fully protect all the patients; however, it concluded that increasing worker vaccination does lead to lower risk of patients developing influenza.

Both studies were published this week in the open access journal PLoS Medicine.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about seasonal flu.

-- Kevin McKeever

SOURCE: PLoS Medicine, news release, Oct. 27, 2008

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