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Editorial: Flu sense

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

A new study covering three decades of U.S. data has found that giving flu shots to the elderly has not saved any lives.

The National Institutes of Health research showed that the incidence of death from flu in people ages 65 to 74 -- about 10 in 100,000 -- remained the same from 1984 to 2001 even though the percentage of elderly vaccinated for the flu more than quadrupled.

Despite the findings, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta doesn't plan to change its policy on giving flu shots. It recommends flu shots for people 50 and over, nursing home residents, pregnant women, children 6 to 23 months old, the chronically ill and certain health-care and day-care workers.

Even if flu shots don't prevent elderly deaths from the flu, there is no indication that they cause any deaths. Most elderly people familiar with the saying "Better safe than sorry." In this case, we think it applies.


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