Vaccinating care home staff against influenza halves the rate of flu-like illness in residents and reduces deaths by a quarter, according to a new study.
Over two winter seasons, 1,703 nursing home staff in 44 care homes, plus 2,604 residents, were vaccinated against influenza.
Vaccine coverage was 48.2% and 43.2% in the intervention homes either year, and 5.9% and 3.5% in control homes. Vaccination rates among residents were high in all homes.
For every 100 residents in intervention homes compared with controls, five fewer died from any cause, two fewer were admitted to hospital for a flu-like illness while nine fewer contracted a flu-like illness.
The national rate of flu infections was especially low during the second year of the trial, 2004-5, 'The fact that an effect was shown in a year with below average influenza activity suggests that a protective effect would be observed most years,' the authors comment.
Vaccination campaigns should stress the protection of vulnerable patients as well as benefits to individual, they note.
British Medical Journal.