Vaccines are unquestionably important. They don’t just keep you safe from preventable but dangerous diseases, either. Vaccines contribute to overall public health and prevent millions of deaths every year.
Despite this, a small contingent of anti-vaccine activists have spread the myth that vaccines cause Alzheimer’s disease. This is false, as scientists have proven vaccines safe time and time again. However, researchers have found a different link between vaccines and Alzheimer’s disease.
Thanks to two recent studies, scientists believe flu and pneumonia vaccines may lower the chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers were surprised to find one of the factors that affected someone’s risk for certain diseases was flu shots. They looked at the medical records of about 9,000 people who were 60 or older, making sure to include people from different groups.
From these records, researchers assessed who was most likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. People who got at least one flu shot were 17% less likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The risk dropped another 13% in the people who regularly got vaccinations.
Despite this new link, scientists are not entirely sure how much vaccines protect people from Alzheimer’s. In other words, they’ll need to take a much deeper look with further studies.
One of the reasons this connection is surprising is because vaccinations cause inflammation in the immune system. That’s just part of how they work. However, with Alzheimer’s disease, inflammation is part of what drives the disease.
In the second study, which focused on the effect of flu and pneumonia vaccines, researchers from the University of North Carolina and Duke University looked at medical records of people 65 and older. People were 25% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s if they got a pneumonia vaccine before age 75. In this study, flu vaccines did not seem to reduce the risk any further.
Though this is surprising and new information, there are several possible explanations. Vaccines may generally improve a person’s overall immunity. Alzheimer’s may weaken the immune system and allow harmful viruses or bacteria into the brain. If vaccines strengthen immunity, they may decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s.
In the meantime, vaccinations are still the best defense against these illnesses. Don’t forget to get a vaccine when flu season arrives again. These vaccines are available at most pharmacies, and fall under Medicare coverage, so they’re free, too!