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When the influenza vaccine is well matched to the prevailing strains of flu in a given season, patients in nursing homes are significantly less likely to be hospitalized or to die of pneumonia and other influenza-related causes. The finding comes from a study of more than 1 million Medicare fee-for-service long-stay nursing home residents.
When the vaccine's match with A/H3N2--the influenza strain typically responsible for severe symptoms--was excellent (75%) during an A/H3N2 predominant season, there was an estimated 2.0% reduction in deaths and a 4.2% reduction in pneumonia and influenza hospitalizations compared with a year with a poor match (25%).
"This translates into approximately 2,560 lives saved and more than 3,200 hospitalizations prevented annually for long-stay nursing home residents in the United States," says Dr. Vincent Mor, lead author of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society study.