Despite apocalyptic warnings about a global pandemic, it’s still all-too-easy to underestimate influenza. Even in non-pandemic years, influenza accounts for about 1 in 10 admissions and deaths in hospital from respiratory causes in England.1
Unfortunately, influenza vaccines are generally less efficient in the elderly than they are in younger people.2 Indeed, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) remarked recently that conventional inactivated influenza vaccines ‘showed no significant effectiveness’ in people aged at least 75 years. In October, the JCVI agreed that using an influenza jab that includes an adjuvant to boost effectiveness would be clinically and cost effective in people aged at least 65 years.3
Elderly people are especially vulnerable to influenza. People aged at least 65 years account for up to 90% of deaths from influenza, for instance.4 Cromer et al (2014) analysed data from the eight years (2001/1-2007/8) before the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. During this time, the annual incidence of hospital admissions in England associated with influenza was 9 per 100,000 in people aged 15-44 years who were not in a clinical risk group, and 42 per 100,000 among those at clinical risk. The incidence rose to 46 and 84 per 100,000 respectively in those aged at least 65 years.1
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