Flu and Pneumococcal Vaccines May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s
According to new research, getting seasonal flu and pneumococcal vaccinations may help reduce your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This finding was released at this year’s Alzheimer’s Association International Conference.
Researchers behind one study reviewed over 9,000 health records. They found that a single flu, or influenza, vaccination is associated with a 17% reduction in Alzheimer’s. Getting the flu vaccine year after year is associated with an additional 13% reduction in Alzheimer’s. This protective benefit appears to be strongest for those who get their first flu vaccine at a younger age.
More vaccinations mean fewer flu deaths
Doctors and researchers are hopeful that this news will motivate more people, including children and younger adults, to get these yearly vaccinations. If the flu vaccine becomes more widely received, far fewer people will get very ill and die from influenza.
In 2018-2019, an estimated 35.5 million people got sick with the flu, and 34,200 died from the virus.
The U.S. health care system is already stretched thin due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many of the COVID-19 infection symptoms are similar to those of the seasonal flu (including fever, sore throat, cough, chills, headache, and fatigue). Suppose more Americans get the flu vaccine this season. In that case, it will greatly reduce the number of people who experience these symptoms and need to see a doctor and cases of severe illness and death due to complications from the flu.
Seniors could get an improved protection level
The researchers behind another study found that receiving the pneumococcal vaccination between ages 65 and 75 can reduce Alzheimer’s risk by up to 40% (depending on an individual’s genes). If you carry a particular gene that increases the risk of developing Alzheimer’s Disease, getting this vaccine may not prevent its onset.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the pneumococcal vaccine for all children younger than two years old and adults age 65 and older. Pneumococcal disease (which ranges from painful ear/sinus infections to pneumonia) is common in young children. Still, older adults have a greater risk for severe illness and death from this infection.
Should my family get vaccinated?
The findings from both of these new research studies are very promising. Additionally, large-scale studies are still needed to determine the vaccines’ abilities to prevent Alzheimer’s Disease.
“Annual influenza vaccines, as well as a pneumococcal vaccine in older individuals, is essential to help prevent infectious illness, especially with the current influx of COVID-19,” says Elizabeth Crocco, M.D., a psychiatrist with the University of Miami Health System who specializes in Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly. “Their correlation with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease in both of these significant studies signify additional potential benefits for these simple preventative measures.”
If you’re interested in receiving these vaccines or have questions about their risks and benefits, speak with your primary care physician. The risks for all vaccinations currently available in the U.S. are considered significantly lower than the potential for illness and death due to the infections and diseases the vaccines can prevent.
Find out more about vaccinations at uhealthclinics.com.
Dana Kantrowitz is a contributing writer for UMiami Health News.