BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 405

BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 405


IELTS Academic Reading Test



A shot for public health

Millions of elderly people in the US, Europe and elsewhere get injections for their annual flu shots this month. It is widely seen as a largely effective public health programme which halves the risk of dying over the winter among people aged 65 or over. Actually, for every 200 vaccinations, one life is saved. However, there is overwhelming evidence that this claim is too good to be true, and we must look for additional ways to prevent the flu.

According to the US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu kills approximately 36,000 people every winter in the US. Of them, about 30,000 are aged 65 or over. This is about 5% of the 650,000 winter deaths per year in this age group. Flu itself is never recorded as a cause of death: instead, it leads to the elderly dying from other causes, like bacterial pneumonia, heart disease or a stroke.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Most rich countries are concentrated on cutting this figure by vaccinating those who are at the highest risk, but how well does this actually work? The best way to carry out research in trials that compare those who are vaccinated against those who aren’t, with applicants allocated randomly from each group. But as flu shots are known to be an advantage, it would be unethical to deny some people vaccinations.

Researchers compared those who choose to be vaccinated with those who don’t. Then, they use the statistical methods of control to observe the differences between the two groups. One large meta-analysis of such studies concluded that those who get flu shots are half as likely to die as their unvaccinated peers over the winter. Several other studies have come to a similar conclusion.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

It sounds possibly a bit too good to be true. In 2005, Lone Simonsen, a researcher at George Washington University, and her colleagues showed that the number of flu deaths among the elderly in the US has remained at about 5% of deaths in the group during winter. Vaccination coverage has skyrocketed from about 15% in 1980 to about 70% today. So how could flu vaccination be preventing half of the deaths in winter, when the flu accounted for only 5% of those deaths back in 1980, when most people were not vaccinated?

Also, in 2006 epidemiologist Lisa Jackson and her colleagues at the Centre for Health Statistics in Seattle analysed a Seattle medical database using the same statistical methods as the previous studies. It showed that the maximum benefit of having the flu shot happened in the months before the season of flu even started.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Jackson insisted that the studies failed to give an account of ill and weak elderly people who had died but were less inclined to be vaccinated, making vaccination seem more valuable than it actually is.

But the debate was not over. Last year Kristin Nichol and her colleagues from the University of Minnesota published a dissertation using slightly different statistical methods and included records from tens of thousands of patients in three cities over 10 years. It came to the same incredible conclusion that vaccination was preventing about half of all deaths in winter. Researchers like Simonsen, Jackson and myself estimated Nichol’s methods. Also, we believe this finding is subject to the sort of bias already identified by Jackson.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Last week Simonsen and Nichol discussed the issue at the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in Washington DC. Nichol accepted that although there might still be some bias in her latest survey, flu deaths are estimated indirectly, especially when counting extra deaths beyond those expected in winter. Researchers may have underestimated the number of people who have died as a result of the flu.

In conclusion, we need to improve our statistical methods for measuring the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. This issue has much wider implications as similar methods are used to analyse other areas in which randomised trials are not possible. For example, the effectiveness of cholesterol-lowering statins for pneumonia patients is also analysed in this way.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 14-20

Do the following statements reflect the claims of the writer in Reading Passage 2?

In boxes 14-20 on your answer sheet, write

TRUE               if the statement agrees with the information

FALSE              if the statement contradicts the information

NOT GIVEN    if there is no information on this

14.   About 3,600 people are dying from the flu every winter in the US.

15.   Although flu itself is seldom a disease that causes death, it can make people age quicker.

16.   Lots of rich countries have successfully carried out a high-quality vaccination programme.

17.   Flu shots should be useful for prescription but it may be immoral to hold back vaccination.

18.   From meta-analysis, those who get the flu shot are fifty per cent less likely to die than their unvaccinated peers.

19.   Lone Simonsen indicated how many people died from flu among the young.

20.   The time for the highest level of efficacy of the flu shot turned out within the weeks previous to the flu season.

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 21-25

Classify the following statements as being

A.     US Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

B.     George Washington University in Washington DC

C.     Centre for Health Statistics in Seattle

D.     University of Minnesota in Minneapolis

Write the appropriate letters A-D in boxes 21-25 on your answer sheet.

NB You may use any letter more than once.

21.   Vaccination extent has maximised.

22.   Seattle medical database was analysed using a statistical method.

23.   Around 83 per cent of flu-related fatalities is in the over-65 age group.

24.   Vaccination was able to prevent about fifty per cent of all winter deaths.

25.   The flu deaths account for five per cent of annual winter deaths in the age group of 65 or over. 

IELTS Academic Reading Test

Questions 26-27

Use ONE or TWO WORDS for each answer.

26.   What is ONE of several diseases recorded as a cause of death if the elderly have the flu?

27.   What percentage of the vaccination coverage is recently maximised by the research of Lone Simonsen?

IELTS Academic Reading Test


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BEST IELTS Academic Reading Test 405

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17. TRUE

18. TRUE



21. B

22. C

23. A

24. D

25. A


27. (ABOUT) 70 PER CENT/%

IELTS Academic Reading Test

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