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Flu Vaccines May Also Prevent Flu-Related Pneumonia

Patients with flu-associated pneumonia more likely to have skipped vaccine, study finds

A new study in JAMA examined data from 2,767 adults and children who were hospitalized for pneumonia between 2010 and 2012 and found that patients with pneumonia not associated with influenza were nearly twice as likely to have been vaccinated.

Of 162 people with influenza-associated pneumonia, only 28 (17 percent) had been vaccinated, whereas almost 30 percent of the comparison cases had been vaccinated. Patients whose pneumonia wasn't associated with flu were almost twice as likely to have been vaccinated, the researchers found.

“We knew that influenza vaccines could prevent fever and respiratory symptoms associated with influenza infections, but whether influenza vaccines could prevent pneumonia––a more serious complication of influenza infection––was unclear,” said lead author Dr. Carlos G. Grijalva of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. May different influenza vaccines are available, and they don’t all have the same effectiveness, Grijalva said. Higher-dose flu vaccines have been recommended for older adults and have been more effective than standard doses.

In an email to Reuters Health, Dr. Michael L. Jackson, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Cornell University who was not part of the study, stated that some people do not get the flu vaccine because they do not believe flu is a serious disease, whereas others have logistical challenges that interfere with getting the shot every year.

“We know from other studies that influenza vaccines reduce the risk of influenza disease by about 50 percent,” said Dr. Michael L. Jackson, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Cornell University who was not part of the new study.

“We would expect that the vaccine would prevent severe complications of influenza (such as pneumonia) by approximately that same amount; people who don't get the flu because of the vaccine also would not get pneumonia,” he said.

The new study did not compare the outcomes of flu-associated pneumonia with other cases of pneumonia, but all were serious and required hospitalization, he said.

Source: Reuters Health, October 6, 2015.

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