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Which next-generation flu vaccines best boost immunity among older adults? A CT study seeks to find out.

Elderly woman having the seasonal flu vaccine
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An older woman gets the seasonal flu shot a doctor's office in 2020.

The UConn Center on Aging is inviting adults 65 and older to enroll in a study focused on which flu vaccines are more effective among older people.

Data show that up to 85% of mortality from the flu, and up to 70% of hospitalizations, occurs in people age 65 and older. That’s as a result of age-related weakening of the immune system response, so standard flu vaccines don’t work optimally.

The UConn Center on Aging will investigate which age-related changes in the immune system reduce people’s responses to the flu vaccine, and which next-generation flu vaccines best boost immune responses.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended specific flu vaccines for adults 65 and older, including higher-dose and adjuvanted flu vaccines.

“The goal is to give them this year, the Fluzone high-dose vaccine, and the next year give them the FluAD vaccine,” said Dr. George Kuchel, director of the UConn Center on Aging at the University of Connecticut and chief of geriatric medicine at UConn Health.

The vaccines are FDA-approved and have been shown to be effective in overcoming these declines in immune responses with aging, Kuchel said.

“This way, we’ll be able to compare their immune responses,” he said. “We know from our earlier studies, when we give an influenza vaccine to an older adult, we find that about a third of older adults develop very good antibody responses. And we know another third do not, with the other third being kind of in between.”

The study is funded by a five-year, $9 million grant from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to the UConn Center on Aging, the Jackson Laboratory, and Mount Sinai.

Study participants will have six visits for the 2022 and 2023 influenza seasons and seven visits for the 2024 season at the UConn Center on Aging. There are no costs to participate and monetary compensation is provided for participation.

Individuals 65 and older by Sept. 1, 2022, are eligible to enroll in the study, which is recruiting 60 participants. Participants must not have immunosuppressive disorders or be on immunosuppressive medications. To enroll, call 860-679-3043.

Sujata Srinivasan is Connecticut Public Radio’s senior health reporter. Prior to that, she was a senior producer for Where We Live, a newsroom editor, and from 2010-2014, a business reporter for the station.

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