Influenza vaccination — a shot against frailty in older adults

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Three experts presented and led discussion on key aspects of influenza and vaccination, such as: value and use of vaccination from a variety of perspectives, the types of vaccines and their impact on seniors, a case study on the implementation of high-dose influenza vaccines in a health system. This session was useful for health practitioners, trainees, caregivers, policy makers, administrators and citizens looking for evidence-based information on vaccination/influenza.

People over the age of 65 (particularly those living with frailty), often have weakened immune systems and are at a higher risk of developing serious flu related complications, which can lead to frailty, including significant decline in independence and mobility. Seniors are at high-risk for the most severe consequences of flu including hospitalization and death. It is estimated that up to 91 per cent of flu-related deaths occur in those 65 years of age and older.

Melissa Andrew, MD, PhD, MSc(PH) is Associate Professor of Medicine and consultant in Geriatric Medicine at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. She completed her MD as well as residency training in Internal Medicine and Geriatrics at Dalhousie University. She did a Masters of Public Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on a Commonwealth Scholarship then returned to Dalhousie to complete her Interdisciplinary PhD. She is an Associate Member of the Canadian Centre for Vaccinology. As part of the Canadian Immunization Research Network, she is co-Principal Investigator of the Serious Outcomes Surveillance (SOS) Network, where she studies how frailty impacts both vaccine effectiveness and clinical outcomes of influenza and pneumococcal infections in older people. She also serves on the Scientific Committee of the Global Influenza Hospital Surveillance Network.

Richard Baydack, PhD is Director of Communicable Disease Control within the Active Living, Population and Public Health Branch of Manitoba Health, Seniors and Active Living (MHSAL). After completing his PhD in Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, he joined MHSAL in 2009 and has served in his current position for the last five years. During the 2017/18 influenza season, he oversaw the implementation of a publicly-funded High Dose influenza vaccine program for residents of Long-Term Care facilities in Manitoba, the first of its kind in Canada.

Stefan Gravenstein, MD, MPH is clinical director at Healthcentric Advisors; a professor of medicine and health services policy and practice at the Gerontology Center, Brown University, and researcher at the Veterans Administration Medical Center at their Center for Innovation for Long-Term Care Services and Supports. He has been interested in vaccines, immunity, aging, and quality, especially in the context of the long-term care environment for several decades.