Flu Vaccine: How a High Dose Could Help Older Patients

High-dose influenza vaccine may significantly reduce hospitalization among elderly nursing home patients

(RxWiki News) The flu can be a major risk for elderly patients. But the type of flu vaccine these patients receive could lower that risk.

A new study from University Hospitals in Cleveland, OH, found that high-dose flu vaccines may significantly reduce the risk of hospitalization among elderly nursing home residents during flu season.

"Flu in a nursing home population is a major cause of hospitalizations," said lead study author Stefan Gravenstein, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Geriatrics and Palliative Care at University Hospitals Case Medical Center, in a press release. "In addition to pneumonia, flu can contribute to heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes, especially in an older nursing home population where it can easily spread among residents. In our study, for every 83 individuals receiving the high dose vaccine a person was prevented from being hospitalized during the influenza season."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the risk of hospitalization among elderly nursing home patients is about 1 in 5 during flu season.

For this study, Dr. Gravenstein and team looked at more than 50,000 patients age 65 or older from 823 nursing homes across 38 US states. Nearly 14,000 of these patients were age 90 or older. All patients were given flu shots to help protect them during the November 2013 to March 2014 flu season.

The nursing homes were randomly assigned to one of two groups. The first group received a regular dose of the flu vaccine, while the second group received a flu vaccine containing four times the strength of a standard shot.

The group that received the high-dose vaccine had a 19.7 percent hospitalization rate during flu season. By comparison, the other group had a 20.9 percent hospitalization rate.

"If given to all approximately 1.5 million nursing home residents, a one percent drop in hospitalizations would translate to thousands fewer being hospitalized," Dr. Gravenstein said.

This study was presented Oct. 10 at the annual meeting of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

Sanofi Pasteur funded this research. Sanofi Pasteur is the vaccines division of the pharmaceutical company Sanofi.

Review Date: 
October 13, 2015