Today marks Grandparents’ Day, a day aimed at celebrating the fundamental role that the elderly play for the family and society. With flu season upon us, however, this day also provides an opportunity to shine a spotlight on the need to protect older adults from the risks of seasonal flu.
Every year, it is estimated that 50-70% of hospitalizations related to the flu and 70-85% of deaths related to the contraction of this virus they mainly concern people over 65. Furthermore, the presence of comorbidities increases the risk of complications: 50% of the population between 65 and 75 years of age suffers from at least one chronic pathology, a percentage which rises to 75% over 85 years of age ,.
Hospitalizations for cardiovascular causes and respiratory events attributable to influenza are quantified at more than 300,000 per year. Furthermore, elderly patients are also subject to medium-long term risks, such as the danger of losing functional self-sufficiency associated with the persistent worsening of co-present pathologies, as well as the consequent request for continuous care or institutionalization. The prevalence of onset of disability after hospital discharge is 30%.
Nonetheless, there are still many elderly people in Calabria who neglect vaccination or decide not to get vaccinated: last season, only 62.1% of over 65s chose to receive the vaccine, a slight decrease compared to the previous year (62, 9%). A figure still far from the targets set by the Ministry of Health, which recommend reaching 75% as a long-term objective (and 65% in the medium term), while 95% among the elderly and at-risk groups, in line with what indicated by the WHO and the National Vaccine Prevention Plan 2023-2025. Considering that influenza causes up to 8,000 deaths every year, experts are launching an appeal now that the vaccination campaign is in the starting blocks, in order to increase participation rates, especially linked to this delicate age group.
For the elderly population – whose immune response is weaker – a vaccine containing a higher dosage of antigen has been specifically designed, capable of offering superior protection compared to the traditional vaccine, while respecting the same safety and tolerability standards. It is a best-in-class high-dose vaccine that was shown to prevent 24% more influenza infections than the standard-dose vaccine in older adults in a randomized clinical trial, a 64% higher efficacy, 4% compared to the standard-dose vaccine in preventing influenza- and pneumonia-related hospitalizations in a real-world randomized trial, a significant and consistent reduction in hospitalizations for pneumonia and cardiovascular disease across 12 influenza seasons and 45 million patients.
The Ministry of Health itself, in the circular for the prevention and control of seasonal influenza 2023-2024, recommended the administration of the high-dose vaccine to subjects aged 65 years or older.7