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Research published by the IFA suggests that influenza vaccination has an additional layer of benefits for older people and those suffering with chronic illness

July 4, 2019

Toronto, Ontario – A report released today by the International Federation on Ageing (IFA) highlights a key finding; the annual flu shot may have a protective effect in addition to preventing or reducing the severity of infection.

“This recent report commissioned and developed by the IFA has been a marvellous stimulus to clinical, public health and research organisations to promote the benefits of immunisation in older adults by demonstrating what the evidence tells us about key benefits seen in cardiovascular disease and other chronic comorbidity states.” – Prof Alan Sinclair, Diabetes Frail Ltd.

Evidence shows that influenza is associated with higher rates of complications, hospitalizations and even death in individuals living with non-communicable diseases (NCDs) versus the general population.  The probability of hospitalization for influenza is three times higher in people with diabetes than in the general population.  For those with cardiovascular disease, systemic respiratory infections―which are frequently caused by influenza viruses―increase the risk of stroke and heart attacks three- and five-fold respectively in the three days following the onset of infection.

“Without the flu vaccination, those with asthma risk an increase in the severity of their illness, an exacerbation of asthma symptoms with a risk of catastrophic disability and the potential for a hospitalization and/or death.” – Ms. Vanessa Foran, President and CEO, Asthma Canada

The “Secondary Benefits of Influenza Vaccination” report found that the influenza vaccine may be effective in reducing the incidence and severity of respiratory and cardiovascular exacerbations, and in lowering the rates of acute events such as heart attack or stroke.  The review of literature also found that being vaccinated against influenza could have a protective role in preventing functional decline among older adults, which reduces the incidence of frailty.  Those with the most severe cardiovascular and respiratory disease receive the highest level of protection, with no recorded risks from the vaccination detected.

“Vaccines contribute enormously to the prevention of influenza, yet many are unaware of the secondary benefits outlined in this report.  The secondary benefits of influenza vaccination such as preventing functional decline and frailty are imperative to healthy ageing and the ability for older people to participate in that which they value” says Mr. David Sinclair, Director of ILC-UK.

Prof. Alan Sinclair of Diabetes Frail Ltd. further notes that the report “provides a platform for future research in this area. The effectiveness of vaccines in a population depends on a range of factors but is impaired when immunosenescence is operating. A key pathophysiological feature of this process is inflammageing which can accelerate the functional decline in frail individuals and the co-existing presence of diabetes provides the potential for exacerbating this whole process. It is imperative, therefore, that we develop vaccination strategies in older people (particularly those with chronic morbid conditions) that can still be effective in immunosenescence states.”

Although new and robust research is encouraged, findings from this review can be used to catalyze improved policy and inform interventions to increase vaccination coverage.

To read the full report, click here.

For media enquiries, please contact Megan Acton at

This project was funded through an unrestricted educational grant from Seqirus.


About the International Federation on Ageing: The International Federation on Ageing (IFA) is an international, non-governmental organization (NGO) with a unique membership base comprising government, NGOs, academics, industry, and individuals in over 70 countries.  Now over 45 years old, the IFA has become known as a leading and innovative organization that works across disciplines and sectors toward common goals that improve the lives of older people.  Through the IFA’s formal relations with the World Health Organization (WHO) and general consultative status at the United Nations and its agencies, the IFA is in the position to advocate directly with member states and contribute to and inform intergovernmental dialogue.

About the IFA’s Vaccines4Life (V4L) Program: V4L aims to help build a world where healthy ageing and functional ability of older people are maintained through strong vaccination uptake rates.  The program has grown to be one of the leading voices and advocates for adult vaccination, working at global, country and regional levels with the aim of unifying the message and actions across to stakeholders to drive policy and practice change.  V4L expert meetings and summits are convened as platforms to build a sustainable advocacy network and strategy that focus on specific barriers preventing a more comprehensive approach to changing policy. 

The IFA World Coalition on Adult Vaccination acts as a focal point to bring together and disseminate good practice as well as consolidate the voices of experts and their organisations.  The Coalition formally comments on and highlights high level strategies at the WHO, United Nations, and similar agencies, and elevates the critical policy focus through consensus statements and campaigns.



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