Eczema May Leave Some Flu Shots Less Effective

MONDAY, Feb. 13, 2017 (HealthDay News) — It’s still flu season, and not too late to get your flu shot. But a new study suggests that people with eczema should request the vaccine be given into the muscle, rather than just under the skin.

That’s because the effectiveness of flu shots in people with eczema appears to vary, depending on how it’s given, researchers report.

The problem seems to lie with the fact that the cracked, dry skin of eczema patients is often colonized by Staphylococcus bacteria. And that seems to dampen the immune response from the flu vaccine — if the shot is given into the skin, the researchers said.

“Staphylococcus infections are a widespread problem among [eczema] patients, with up to 90 percent of patients with severe disease colonized by the bacteria,” lead researcher Dr. Donald Leung, of National Jewish Health in Denver, said in a hospital news release. He’s head of pediatric allergy and immunology at the medical center.

Leung’s team believes that people with eczema “are likely to get the most protection from traditional intramuscular influenza vaccines, rather than intradermal vaccines.”

Eczema is the most common chronic skin disease in the United States, affecting more than 15 percent of children. The condition persists into adulthood for about half of them.

As the researchers explained, intradermal (into the skin) flu vaccines were first approved for use in U.S. adults in 2011. Needle-phobics no doubt prefer them, because they involve smaller needles that penetrate less deeply and, “use significantly less material to achieve similar immunologic effects in most people,” according to the news release.

But Leung’s team wondered if intradermal shots would be as effective in people with eczema. So, the researchers tracked immune responses for 202 people with eczema and 136 people without the skin condition.

About half of the study participants got an intradermal flu vaccine, while the other half received the intramuscular shot.

The result: About a month later, only 11 percent of those who received an injection in the skin had developed protection against the strain of flu targeted by the vaccine, compared with 47 percent of those who received an injection into the muscle.

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