Washington: Elderly critically ill patients who have been vaccinated against influenza have a reduced risk of dying and of suffering a blood clot or bleeding in the brain, found researchers.
The study covers almost 90,000 surviving intensive care patients above the age of 65 during an eleven year period in Denmark.
Only a few of them were admitted directly due to influenza. However, regardless of the cause of the admission, for those who were vaccinated the risk of suffering a stroke, which is the collective name for bleeding and blood clots in the brain was 16 per cent lower. This group also has an eight per cent lower risk of dying during the first year following their hospitalisation.
“Every year, 30,000 people are admitted to the intensive care units in Danish hospitals and we know that the first year is critical. Approximately three out of four survive the hospitalisation and are discharged from the hospital. But even among the patients who are discharged, almost one in five die within the first year while many others suffer complications.
Our study shows that there are fewer deaths and serious complications among patients who have been vaccinated against influenza. So this supports the current recommendation that elderly people should be vaccinated,” said Christian Fynbo Christiansen, one of the researchers of the study published in the journal of Intensive Care Medicine.
Today, less than forty per cent of elderly Europeans say yes to the vaccination.
“We can’t say with one hundred per cent certainty that the risk of a stroke and dying is lower solely because of the vaccine. But we can see that the elderly people who have been vaccinated do better in the event of critical illness. This suggests that it would be good if more elderly people received the vaccine. Not least because the vaccine is both safe and inexpensive,” said Christian Fynbo Christiansen.
This is the first time that researchers have looked into the effect of the vaccine specifically on elderly critically ill patients. Other researchers have previously shown that the influenza vaccine lessens the risk of bacterial infections and heart attacks.
However, the study showed that this is not the case for elderly intensive care patients.
“Surprisingly, the vaccine didn’t reduce the number of pneumonia cases in our study. We had otherwise expected that it would, as some previous studies have shown that the vaccine has this effect on younger and healthy individuals. Neither was there any clear difference in the number of blood clots in the heart.
This raises new research questions about what effect of the vaccine on the immune system and whether there were other differences between the patients,” said Christian Fynbo Christiansen.