CHICAGO – Persons younger than 65 with high-risk medical conditions such as chronic lung and heart disease can substantially benefit from annual influenza vaccination during an epidemic, according to a study in the February 14 issue of The Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.
Influenza continues to be a major cause of illness and death, with an annual 140,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths in the United States, according to background information in the article. Many studies have shown that influenza vaccination can reduce acute respiratory disease hospitalizations and death from all causes in the elderly. This analysis, involving 75,227 patient-observations, 30,861 of which were among high-risk patients younger than 65, is the first large-scale study to show that influenza vaccination is highly effective in reducing complications across all age groups, according to the authors.
Eelko Hak, M.Sc., Ph.D., of the University Medical Center of Utrecht, the Netherlands, and his colleagues, used data from Dutch primary care data management centers during the 1999-2000 influenza A epidemic. In the Netherlands, virtually all persons recommended for influenza vaccination receive their vaccine from a general practitioner through a standardized vaccination program.
"To our knowledge, this is the first study showing high vaccine effectiveness in reducing severe end points such as deaths (78 percent) and hospitalizations for acute respiratory and cardiovascular disease (87 percent) among high-risk persons of working age," the authors stated. According to the researchers, the study is consistent with other reports that vaccination may reduce hospital admissions for cardiovascular and cerebrovascular complications as well as death or hospitalization for influenza or pneumonia in the elderly.
"…The results of our study lend strong support for the view that all high-risk persons benefit from annual influenza vaccination regardless of age," the authors conclude. "Therefore, efforts should be renewed to convince providers and patients of the clinical usefulness of such vaccination, notably among younger high-risk persons."
(Arch Intern Med. 2005; 165:274-280. Available post-embargo at www.archinternmed.com.)
Editor's Note: This study was financially supported by the Netherlands Health Care Insurance Board (Diemen, the Netherlands). The Netherlands Health Care Insurance Board directly subsidizes the Nethelands Progarm on Influenza. From 1997 to 2003, influenza vaccines were bought centrally from pharmaceutical industries and distributed by the Netherlands Vaccine Institute. Because no financial profits could be made by either organization, there is no conflict of interest. The design, analysis and interpretation of the study were conducted independently of the Netherlands Health Care Insurance Board.
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