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Influenza Vaccine
What is it? Overview Usage Side Effects and Warnings

Enhancing Immune Response to Influenza Vaccine

Written by ColleenO.

Flu vaccinations work by "training" the immune system to be resistant to specific strains of viruses that cause the flu. This process requires that the body's immune system respond to the vaccination. Some supplements may enhance your immune response to the vaccine, making it more effective at preventing the flu.

Asmall double-blind study found evidence that use of the probiotic bacteria Lactobacillus fermentum improved the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine.158 The probiotic supplement was taken in two doses: one, two weeks before the vaccine, and the other, two weeks after.

Some seniors do not respond fully to the influenza vaccine. There is some evidence that vitamin E supplements may strengthen the immune response to vaccinations.74 Similarly, evidence from two double-blind trials,93,94 but not a third,102 suggests that combined multivitamin/multimineral supplements may improve their response. However, in another trial, a multivitamin tablet without minerals actually worsened participants' response to the vaccine.95 The reason for these discrepancies is unclear; however, concerns have been raised that one of the scientists who reported benefits in some of these trials engaged in questionable scientific practices.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of 124 people, the supplement chlorella at a dose of 200 mg or 400 mg daily failed to enhance response to influenza vaccine.129 Another study failed to find benefit with a remedy from Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine, Hochu-ekki-to.136


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  6. Halperin SA, Smith B, Nolan C, et al. Safety and immunoenhancing effect of a chlorella-derived dietary supplement in healthy adults undergoing influenza vaccination: randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. CMAJ. 2003;169:111-117. 136.Hamazaki K, Sawazaki S, Itomura M, et al. No effect of a traditional Chinese medicine, Hochu-ekki-to, on antibody titer after influenza vaccination in man: A randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind trial. Phytomedicine. 2006 Apr 24. [Epub ahead of print]
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