Do Nursing Home Diseases and Death Increase after Influenza Vaccination?
Posted Oct 01 2012 12:00am
Last week I was at a nursing
home that offers long- and short-term care. On Friday publicly posted signs
indicated that residents received influenza vaccinations that day. By law
patients' personal health information is protected by HIPPA, so of course any
information that would identify them is omitted here. I do not know which
residents did or did not receive flu shots, or whether they received vaccines
from multi-dose bottles containing the mercury-based preservative thimerosal.
In a normal month, resident/patient deaths
are few and spread out. However since Friday, three long-term residents passed
away in three days, and a fourth died two days later.
This could all be
coincidence; in fact, one patient’s age was quite advanced. However one staff
person commented that the person’s end was not expected so quickly. Another
staff person, a nurse, commented about the deaths, “It’s that time of year.”
My question: Have any studies
been done to determine whether nursing home deaths increase disproportionately
shortly after immunizations?
Such an increase in deaths
following influenza shots delivered en masse within a short time period would
be calculable. Exacerbation of current medical symptoms or emergence of new
disorders would be more difficult to establish.
This week I emailed the above
question to a doctor, who responded thus:
“This cluster would probably make the news if there had been an exposure to
something the EPA wants to regulate.
"Such clusters of course do not prove anything, but certainly should
arouse questions. Why this time of year? It's not freezing cold, and it is not
you knew the expected mortality rate on a day in October, you could calculate
the probability of three seemingly unrelated deaths occurring on three
successive days by chance alone. Then one would need to test the hypothesis
that death clusters were more likely after than before flu shots in other data
Though death is inevitable
for us all, I would hate to think that clusters such as this in aging
populations are common or viewed with the same tolerance as pneumonia – once
darkly referred to in the medical community as “the friend of the elderly.”