The annual vaccine was found to lower the chance of Alzheimer’s by at least 17 percent

By Julie Mazziotta
July 27, 2020 05:19 PM
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That yearly flu vaccine may do far more than protect against influenza — people who get their flu and pneumonia shots are linked to a significantly reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.

In two new, separate studies, released Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference, researchers found that the flu and pneumonia vaccines have the added benefit of lowering the chance of developing Alzheimer’s, the most common, and devastating, form of dementia.

One of the two studies focused on the annual flu vaccine, and found that getting a single flu shot was associated with a 17 percent reduction in the chance of developing Alzheimer’s. And those who got the flu shot more than once saw an additional 13 percent reduction.

“Our study suggests that regular use of a very accessible and relatively cheap intervention – the flu shot — may significantly reduce risk of Alzheimer’s dementia,” Albert Amran, a medical student at the McGovern Medical School at the University of Texas Health Science Center and one of the study authors, told USA Today.

The researchers used health data from more than 9,000 patients aged 60 and up, and found that those who got a flu shot at a younger age were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s.

Amran told CNN that they aren’t sure why the flu vaccine was effective against the disease, but they believe that getting the vaccine may help the immune system stay “in shape” as people age.

"More vaccinations meant less Alzheimer's," Amran told NPR.

The other study looked at how the pneumonia vaccine — which is recommended for children under 2 or adults over 65 — reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, based on data from over 5,000 people over age 65. Those who got the pneumonia vaccine between ages 65 to 75 had a 25 to 30 percent lower chance of developing Alzheimer’s.

"Pneumonia vaccination appears to be protective for older adults," Svetlana Ukraintseva, an associate research professor in the Biodemography of Aging Research Unit at Duke's Social Science Research Institute who worked on the study, told NPR.