Influenza is a common infectious respiratory condition that is generally more prevalent during the monsoon season. The most common symptoms of an infection are fever, cough, aches and pains, although these tend to disappear within 3–5 days in less severe cases.
However, for elderly patients, or those with underlying health conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, or diabetes, the risk of a serious infection requiring hospital treatment are higher. Based on data related to hospital stays resulting from influenza infections in Thailand, it has been found that infants and the elderly are the groups most at risk.
Influenza infections impact the bodies of elderly patients in more ways than in other groups, resulting in the following potential complications:
It is possible to prevent influenza with annual vaccinations, which are necessary due to the yearly transformations that the virus undergoes, as well as to combat various strains of the disease.
The influenza vaccine can be administered at any time throughout the year, although the most suitable times are just prior to the rainy season (May) and before winter (October) as these times are when the disease is most prevalent.
There is now a specially designed elderly influenza vaccine available that can offer greater protection for this group. Additionally, this vaccine can reduce hospital stays owing to various other complications, such as influenza-related pneumonia, respiratory complications, and influenza symptoms themselves.
The elderly influenza vaccine contains 4 times as many antigens compared to traditional influenza vaccines, and is most suited to patients age 65 and above.
(Ref: Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine (Split Virion, Inactivated), 60 mcg HA/strain SMPC. Internal data)
A study undertaken in the U.S.A. and Canada from 2011 – 2013 on a sample group of 31,989 patients aged 65 and over involved comparing efficacy between the traditional 4-strain influenza vaccine and the newly developed elderly influenza vaccine. Researchers found that the elderly influenza vaccine increased protection by up to 24.2% more than the traditional 4-strain influenza vaccine.
The study also found that in addition to the protection it offered against influenza, the elderly influenza vaccine reduced hospitalization and mortality rates resulting from various other complications more than the traditional influenza vaccine.
As of today, more than 202 million doses of this vaccine have been administered worldwide and elderly patients have been closely monitored afterward. Based on more than 10 years of data, it has been found that there are no safety concerns related to its use and there have been no reports of unwanted serious side effects.
In terms of systemic reactions to the vaccine, the occurrence risks are no different to those associated with the traditional 4-strain influenza vaccine.