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U-M study: Program to boost elderly flu vaccination could save lives

To increase influenza vaccinations rates among the elderly those ages 65 and over who are at high risk for influenza-related mortality the federal government could consider borrowing a page from the pharmaceutical companies' prescription drug advertising campaigns.

By using direct-to-consumer advertising, an effective tactic used by pharmaceutical companies to encourage consumers to seek information about new treatments, researchers at the University of Michigan Health System say the federal government could promote flu vaccination to the elderly in a cost-effective manner that would ultimately save lives.

Study results show that if the Department of Health and Human Services were to lead a 10-year flu vaccination program aimed at elderly people with the same intensity as pharmaceutical companies' direct-to-consumer advertising campaigns, it could save more than 6,500 lives at a cost of $37,600 per life-year saved for the duration of the program.

The study, the first to analyze the cost-effectiveness of an intense federal advertising campaign aimed at vaccination, appears in the March 2006 issue of Preventive Medicine.

Annual vaccination is the single greatest defense against the flu, reducing illness, hospitalizations and even death.

Despite being an efficient and cost-effective way to prevent mortality from flu among the elderly, it's still an underutilized tool with vaccination rates falling more than 25 percentage points below the national goal of 90 percent, says study author Matthew Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P, an assistant professor of pediatrics and internal medicine in the division of General Pediatrics and General Internal Medicine at the U-M Health System, and of public policy at U-M's Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy.

"Direct-to-consumer advertising for flu vaccine may be an effective method to inform elderly persons unaware or perhaps not yet convinced of potential immunization benefits and motivate
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24-Mar-2006


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