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Fueling a Flu Debate: Do vaccinations save lives among the elderly?

It would seem to be a no-brainer: Vaccinating elderly people against influenza each fall should lead to fewer hospital stays and higher survival rates. But past studies haven't established such trends.

Researchers now report that elderly people who get flu shots indeed appear less likely to die or to become hospitalized during the flu season than those who don't get immunized.

Flu shots limit illness in most age groups but have shown an inconsistent effect in the elderly. And even though flu vaccine coverage of elderly people in the United States grew from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent by the mid-1990s, no corresponding drop in the death rate was reported.

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