French drug company Sanofi-Aventis is seeking European Union approval for a new type of influenza injection it says will protect the elderly.
Sanofi Pasteur, the French company's vaccines division, said preliminary trials with 7,000 adult or elderly patients had generated a superior immune response against all tested flu strains compared with normal vaccinations.
The new process delivers the vaccine using a small "intradermal" (ID) injection which penetrates the dermal layer of the skin, just below the body's outer layer.
"Due to the high concentration of specialized immune cells in this skin layer, and their ability to effectively stimulate an immune response, ID vaccination provides direct and efficient access to the immune system," Sanofi said in a statement.
The technique has been lodged for review by the European Medecines Agency.
Annual flu epidemics are thought to result in three to five million cases of severe illness and between 300,000 and 500,000 deaths every year around the world, the company said.
Most influenza-related deaths in industrialized countries occur among those over 65.