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Influenza vaccination reduced older adults' risk of hospitalization by 7% and mortality by 33%, according to a report in the Oct. 4 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. (See: More Evidence for Flu Shot Mortality Benefit in Older Adults, but Debate Continues)
Yet vaccination rates have not rebounded after widespread flu vaccine shortages in the 2004-2005 flu season. Compared with the season before the shortage, vaccination rates in the 2005-2006 flu season were down overall. But the decline was steepest -- 8.6 percentage points -- among healthy adults ages 50 to 64, researchers at the CDC reported in the Sept. 21 issue of the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. (See: Flu Vaccine Supply Rebounds but Immunization Rates Don't)
That decline was particularly worrisome because current guidelines recommend annual flu shots for that group as well as for at-risk adults younger than 50 and for persons 65 or older.
Comprehensive measures are needed if flu vaccination rates are to recover, the researchers said. Those would include improving public awareness of the need for flu shots and addressing remaining problems in the vaccine supply chain.
In recent years, flu "clinics" have been held in a wide range of public places, from pharmacies to food stores to the local town hall. And physicians have complained that those places often get their supply of vaccines before physicians do.