According to a recent study, no link exists between the flu vaccination and the risk of pneumonia. “This suggests that the flu vaccine doesn’t protect seniors as much as has been thought,” says Michael L. Jackson PhD, MPH, a postdoctoral fellow at the Group Health Center for Health Studies.
In an effort to find the most accurate rate of pneumonia in relation to the flu vaccination, the researchers improved previous research methods on the topic.
“We tried to overcome the limits of previous studies done by others. Those studies may have overestimated the benefits of the flu vaccine in the elderly for various reasons,” says Jackson.
In order to overcome those limits, this case-control study of 3,500 patients, all of 65 years of age, compared “cases” – patients with community-acquired pneumonia treated in a hospital or elsewhere, with “controls” – people matched to the “cases” by sex and age, but with no pneumonia. Both the case group and the control group had similar rates of flu vaccination and all patients had intact immune systems. None lived in a nursing home.
“Despite our findings, and even though immune responses are known to decline with age, I still want my grandmother to keep getting the flu vaccine,” says Jackson. “The flu vaccine is safe. So it seems worth getting, even if it might lower the risk of pneumonia and death only slightly.”
The study is published in the August 2 issue of The Lancet.