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High-dose flu vaccines appear to safely boost immunity in elderly

High-dose influenza vaccines may increase elderly patients' immune response without significant adverse effects, offering this vulnerable population additional protection against the flu, according to an article in the May 22 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Vaccines containing inactivated influenza virus have been available for 50 years to prevent flu and its complications, according to background information in the article. Immune responses decrease with age, however, and currently available flu vaccines are not always effective in the elderly. Recommended vaccines contain 15 micrograms (g) of inactivated virus per strain.

Wendy A. Keitel, M.D., Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, and colleagues studied the response to vaccines containing 15, 30 and 60 g of virus among 202 individuals age 65 years and older (average age 72.4) in 2002. The 60-g level was selected as the highest dosage because manufacturers would reasonably be able to produce that type of vaccine. Participants were randomly assigned to receive one of the three vaccines or a placebo injection and then were monitored daily for one week afterward. They were also examined 30 minutes, two days and 28 days after the vaccine and were contacted six months later to inquire about serious adverse events or side effects. Blood was drawn before the immunization and one month after.

On average, individuals who received higher dosages of vaccine had higher concentrations of antibodies against the flu virus in their blood one month later. In addition, a larger percentage of those who received the higher-dose vaccines had what physicians believe is a sufficient immune response to protect them from developing the flu if they were exposed to the virus. All three vaccine dosage levels were safe and well tolerated, according to the researchers. Although discomfort, redness or swelling at the site of the injection was more common among those who r
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Contact: Kimberlee Barbour
713-798-7971
JAMA and Archives Journals
22-May-2006


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