A Brown University study of the records of nursing home residents affirms the value of the flu vaccine in senior adults.

By comparing weekly deaths and flu-related hospitalizations in each year’s flu season, the researchers were able to calculate that for every percentage point increase in the A/H3N2 match rate, weekly deaths declined by about 0.0016 and hospitalizations declined by about 0.002 per 1,000 nursing home residents.

Those numbers may seem small, but put another way, among about 1 million elderly persons living in nursing homes each year, a 50-percentage point increase in the match rate for a flu season would save the lives of 2,560 people and prevent 3,200 hospitalizations.

“That’s saving lives,” Vincent Mor, corresponding author of the study, said. “That’s really a profound effect.”

Mor said the results are likely applicable to all elderly people, the vast majority of whom do not live in nursing homes. Vaccination rates among the elderly in the community, however, tend to be much lower than in nursing homes.

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