FLU NEWS SCAN: Vaccine mandate, immunity in elderly

Study: Lower flu vaccine response in elderly is due to antibody quantity
The reduced antibody response to influenza vaccine in elderly people compared with younger adults is due to a difference in the quantity rather than the quality of antibodies, according to a study published online today by the Journal of Clinical Investigation. A team of researchers from several US institutions measured the level of plasmablasts—a type of antibody-producing cell—in elderly and young adults 1 week after receiving an inactivated seasonal flu vaccine. They found that the cells were fewer and the concentration of plasmablast-derived antibodies was lower in the elderly people, but there was no difference in the antigen-binding ability of the antibodies. At the same time, the researchers found that the reactivity of the vaccine-induced antibodies to the 2009 H1N1 virus, which was not included in the vaccine, was greater in the older people than in the young. "These results indicate that the inferior antibody response to influenza vaccination in the elderly is primarily due to reduced quantities of vaccine-specific antibodies," the report says. "They also suggest that exposure history affects the cross-reactivity of vaccination-induced antibodies."
Jul 25 J Clin Invest report

Utah hospital chain adopts flu-shot requirement
Intermountain Healthcare, a large chain of hospitals and clinics in Utah and southeastern Idaho, is joining the ranks of institutions that require their employees to receive an influenza vaccination, according to a report from KSL Television in Salt Lake City. The requirement will take effect Aug 2 "It's the next step in working to provide the protection for our patients that we need to have and making sure we do everything possible that they not come into one of our facilities without influenza and leave with it," said Dr. Brent Wallace, the system's chief medical officer. He said more than 80 other health systems around the country have adopted a flu-shot requirement. The new requirement provides religious and medical exemptions, but those who choose against immunization will be required to wear a mask or be reassigned during the flu season, the report said. Intermountain has 23 hospitals and numerous outpatient clinics and employs 32,000 people, according to information on its Web site.
Jul 23 KSL TV report

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