During the 2013-2014 flu season, a Brown University study tracked 38,000 nursing home residents from 823 nursing homes in 38 states who received the Fluzone vaccine, a high dose shot with 4 times the antigen, to measure their hospitalization rates. Of the study participants, 1/4 were over the age of 90. Previous studies had only focused on the effects of giving the high dose vaccine to the healthiest populations. The findings revealed that hospitalization was 3.8% for those who received the standard does and 3.4 percent for those who were given the high dose. The biggest benefit was the reduction in hospitalization for respiratory illnesses. Nursing home residents who were given the high dose shot saw a 13% drop in hospitalization rates. That same group was also hospitalized the least for any other reason.
However, one significant finding was that death rates were unaffected by the type of flu vaccine nursing home residents received. New York pulmonologist Dr. Alan Mensch told Medline Plus that the major strain of flu during the 2013-2014 flu season was one of the least harsh we’ve had, concluding that the lessened severity might have played a part in the lack of change in the death rate.
It is worth noting that the manufacturer of the Fluzone, Sanofi-Pasteur, funded the Brown University study and that the final conclusion of the lead study author was that the drug, although more expensive than the standard-dose vaccine, ‘far outweighs its cost.’
With flu season soon upon us, any reduction in hospitalization rates for the elderly is significant and worth mentioning to a physician when the time comes for flu vaccines.