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Influenza: people of any age with high-risk medical conditions may benefit from vaccination

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.

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.

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.

Eelko Hak, 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.”

Source: The Archives of Internal Medicine, 2005