Study: Smaller flu vaccine doses may work – for non-elderly

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Giving smaller doses of the flu vaccine into the skin does not produce the same results in the elderly as traditional shots of the vaccine into the muscle, according to research set to appear in the Nov. 25 New England Journal of Medicine. The elderly are the most likely to die from the flu.

Antibody responses in the study participants aged 60 and over were 75% lower than the responses the body would produce if these participants had received a normal dose, according to researchers. However, antibody responses were found to be similar in people ages 18 to 60, and experts may consider using this to vaccinate healthcare workers.

Experts believe the skin method raises questions about the proper vaccination method for the elderly with normal doses. The skin method produces responses from specialized immune system cells in addition to the antibody responses a traditional shot of the vaccine evokes. The elderly have a poor antibody response rate now, said the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and another federal vaccine expert, John LaMontagne.

Larger studies including more older people and those with other health problems need to be conducted regarding the skin method, said Dr. Mitchell Cohen, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Coordinating Center for Infectious Disease.