Elderly Singaporeans could be better protected with twice-yearly flu jabs: Study

Researchers found that with a second vaccination after six months, another one-fifth of participants had antibody levels high enough to protect against the three influenza strains in the vaccine. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Elderly Singaporeans may be better protected against the flu and respiratory illness if they get an influenza jab twice a year, instead of once, a local study has found.

Researchers found that with a second vaccination after six months, the proportion of participants with antibody levels high enough to protect against the three influenza strains in the vaccine increased by a fifth, from 56.8 per cent to 80.4 per cent.

The May 2016 to November 2017 study by the National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID) and Tan Tock Seng Hospital won Gold in the Singapore Young Investigator Award (Clinical Research) category at the Singapore Health and Biomedical Congress on Thursday (Oct 25).

The award was part of the Congress' Scientific Competition, which recognises research studies that have improved patient care and overall population health.

Dr Barnaby Young, the lead researcher and a consultant of infectious diseases at NCID, said that the findings could help to determine how often someone living in Singapore should get a flu jab.

In Singapore's tropical climate, influenza causes infections all year round, with outbreak timings that are difficult to predict, whereas in temperate climates, they occur only during winter, he added.

The study involved 200 participants aged 65 and up.

At the Congress, organised by the National Healthcare Group (NHG), two agreements were signed to further develop healthcare research and innovation.

NHG and Nanyang Technological University (NTU) signed a Memorandum of Understanding to establish a Joint Programme for Clinician Scientist Development. It is aimed at fostering clinician scientists and funding their research.

Separately, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was signed to encourage polytechnic and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students to take up internships for serious games, or electronic games used for purposes beyond entertainment.

The MOA was signed by NHG, NTU, the five polytechnics - Nanyang Polytechnic, Ngee Ann Polytechnic, Republic Polytechnic, Temasek Polytechnic and Singapore Polytechnic - and the ITE.

The ALIVE-POLY-ITE Student Internship Programme will pair healthcare experts with students who have a background in games design or storytelling, graphics design and IT, to develop serious games prototypes.

The Congress, which is being held at Max Atria at the Singapore Expo and the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Clinical Sciences Building in Novena, runs until Saturday. About 1,800 medical professionals are expected to attend.

Discussions are focused on population health, preventive medicine as well as primary and community care.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong attended the Congress on Thursday as the guest of honour.

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