Seniors were up to less likely to be diagnosed with flu-related illness if they resided in places where more adults <65 years old were immunized, according to an observational study spanning eight flu seasons. Findings from this study are published in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

Researchers evaluated the link between countywide flu vaccination rates for adults aged 18–64 years and flu-related illnesses among 3.3 million Medicare beneficiaries aged ≥65 years between 2002–2010. In areas where at least 31% of the adults aged 18–64 years were vaccinated against the flu, elderly adults had a 21% reduced likelihood of being diagnosed with a flu-related illness.

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This risk reduction was more than twice as great for seniors who were also vaccinated against the flu vs. older adults who were not vaccinated. Community-wide vaccination may possibly boost the protection provided by each person’s vaccination, the findings suggest. Vaccine coverage among children and influenza seen in the elderly were not found to be directly associated, which suggests that seniors may find most benefit from other adults being vaccinated.

Flu vaccination should be encouraged for low-risk adults, study author Glen B. Taksler, PhD, of the Cleveland Clinic concluded. Study findings do not directly establish cause-and-effect relationship between higher flu vaccination rates among younger adults and less flu-related illnesses in seniors. However, this data may aid in vaccination policies and patient-physician discussions about the benefits of getting flu vaccinations.

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