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Serious influenza related illnesses cause considerable morbidity and mortality to patients and put enormous pressure on health, social care and other services. An increased risk of ischaemic heart disease and cerebrovascular disease (CVD) are known to be associated with upper respiratory tract illnesses. In UK studies a substantial reduction in complications, hospital admissions, and mortality has been described in targeted subjects who had received influenza vaccine compared with matched controls who did not have vaccination. Nichol et al have conducted an observational study on two large cohorts of subjects aged 65 or above during the 1998–9 and 1999–2000 influenza seasons. Each cohort consisted of over 140 000 subjects. Clinical data for those who received influenza vaccination were compared with those who did not receive vaccination. Baseline demographic and health characteristics of the subjects were controlled before comparisons were made between the two groups. The authors found that subjects who received influenza vaccination had clinically and statistically significant reductions in the risks of hospitalisation for heart disease, CVD, pneumonia, or influenza and death from all causes.
This study provides further evidence of the benefits of influenza vaccination in the elderly population and lends support to the current UK policy of recommending influenza vaccination to all subjects aged 65 or over.