Image for Kicking Sacred Cows : Is giving flu vaccinations to elderly nursing home patients really advisable?

In Australia the topic of vaccinations has taken on the tone of a sacred mantra and even to question the prevailing wisdom puts one in the Pauline Hanson nutter category.

However, for most things we accept as part of modern living there are risk factors to consider, such as the increased risk of a brain tumour with extended use of a cell phone held next to the head.

Even eating the humble peanut can cause deaths for sensitive individuals which doesn’t mean that we ban the peanut, or the cell phone, but to take sensible precautions to minimize the risk.

There is also a small risk for vaccinations with the need to take a risk-benefit consideration when vaccinating people who may have susceptibilities, such as the elderly with compromised immune systems. Currently, the policy for many Tasmanian nursing homes is to encourage residents to get their annual flu shots to protect against coming down with the illness. Is this good advice? Do the numbers add up?

Consider:

As reported on ABC news, Tasmania’s Strathdevon aged care home last month had 6 residents die of seasonal flu complications even though 95% of the residents had previously been vaccinated for protection against the flu. Of a total population of 37 residents, 31 came down with flu symptoms, 9 required hospitalisation and 6 died. That doesn’t add up to protection.

WHY? Perhaps the flu vaccine does not work for elderly people with very compromised immune systems and may, in fact, have given these elderly people the very thing they were vaccinated against. Or perhaps not - that is a risk to consider for elderly people.

Also see:  https://health.clevelandclinic.org/2015/06/if-your-immune-system-is-compromised-can-you-get-vaccinated/

So, for those Generation X people waiting for their elderly baby boomer parent/s in nursing homes to kick the bucket so they can cash in on the inheritance - make sure the oldies get their flu shots…Perhaps two for good measure.  The numbers are looking pretty good ...

*Don Maisch PhD has been involved in telecommunications standard setting since the early 1990s and was a member of the Standards Australia Committee setting exposure standards for electromagnetic fields. His PhD thesis examined industry influence and bias in telecommunications health risk assessment. He has recently written a book chapter on industry influence in Australian expert science committees which is due for publication in June 2015. Besides also writing about shortcomings with planned smart grids networks in Australia (see here) he is currently working on a thesis examining draconian US tax laws that have been accepted in an IGA by the Abbott government and how they affect the financial future of expat Americans lining in Australia.