UCL News


Flu vaccines for care home staff

11 December 2006

Researchers from the UCL Centre for Infectious Disease Epidemiology have led on research published on the 'British Medical Journal' website on the effectiveness of administering influenza vaccines to care home staff.


Dr Andrew Hayward, Dr Richard Harling, Dr Sally Wetten, Professor Anne Johnson and Dr Shahed Murad co-authored the study with peers from Westminster Healthcare, the Health Protection Agency, and the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Resource Centre at Southampton General Hospital.

The team aimed to discover how effective vaccinating staff is in protecting residents from contracting influenza, which can prove fatal or cause hospitalisation in the elderly and infirm.

A large chain of private care homes was selected for the study, which ran during the winters of 2003-2004 and 2004-2005. Around 1,7000 health workers and 2,600 residents participated in a total of 44 care homes, with 22 acting as a control, and the remainder being subject to intervention by the researchers.

The flu vaccine was offered to care workers in the intervention homes, but not in the control homes. The homes already vaccinate all residents, but the immune response is reduced in elderly patients, so that protection is only 50 to 70 per cent. The virus can spread particularly rapidly in care homes, with attack rates ranging from 20-40%, but potentially reaching 60% of residents.

Dr Hayward said: "In the 2003-2004 period, significant decreases were found in mortality of residents in intervention homes compared with control homes. Our study shows that vaccinating care home staff is worthwhile in preventing deaths, health service use, and influenza-like illness in residents in periods of moderate influenza activity."

Image: flu vaccine