The effectiveness of flu shots in the elderly has been highly exaggerated and the vaccination appears to have little impact on death rates among people over 70, according to a study published in the Lancet. The shots do help people under age 65, researchers concluded. The vaccinations are less effective in older people in part because their immune systems raise fewer antibodies.
The findings may threaten the success of health officials' efforts to boost the number of Americans obtaining the vaccinations as they launch the annual flu shot campaign. The US Centers for Disease Controls will continue to recommend the shots for the elderly and the study's lead author said that a "partly effective vaccine is better than no vaccine at all."