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Health & Medicine for Senior Citizens

Flu Vaccine Seems to Offer Seniors Protection from Heart Failure, Heart Attack

Researchers encourage confirmation of this low-cost, annual, safe, easily administered, and well-tolerated therapy to reduce cardiovascular risk up to 50% - see video in story

Oct. 22, 2013 - For senior citizens needing a push to motivate them to get their annual flu shot, a new study showing the influenza vaccination appears to offer as much as 50 percent protection from major adverse cardiovascular events, such as heart failure, stroke or hospitalization from heart attack. And, those who seemed to receive the most benefit were those with recent acute coronary syndrome (ACS), such as heart attack of unstable angina.

"Hundreds of thousands of people die each year from cardiac causes in North America," said Jacob A. Udell, M.D., M.P.H., F.R.C.P.C., of the University of Toronto. "While preventative care involves lifestyle changes and taking your pills, now, we may also be able to tell patients by getting your flu shot, it might save your life – what a simple and significant way to reduce deaths and the burden on our healthcare system."

Several earlier epidemiological studies suggested a strong relationship between influenza vaccination and a lower risk of fatal and nonfatal cardiovascular events.

“Among nontraditional cardiovascular risk factors, there remains interest in a potential association between respiratory tract infections, of which influenza and influenza-like illnesses are common causes, and subsequent cardiovascular events,” according to the authors in explaining their research in the October 23 issue of JAMA.


Dr. Udell and colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of all randomized clinical trials (RCTs) of influenza vaccine that studied cardiovascular events as efficacy or safety outcomes to determine if influenza vaccination is associated with prevention of cardiovascular events.

The researchers identified five published and 1 unpublished RCTs of 6,735 patients (average age, 67 years; 51 percent women; 36 percent with a cardiac history; average follow-up time, 7.9 months) that met inclusion criteria for the study. Analyses were stratified by subgroups of patients with and without a history of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) within 1 year of randomization.

In the 5 published RCTs, 95 of 3,238 patients treated with influenza vaccine (2.9 percent) developed a major adverse cardiovascular event compared with 151 of 3,231 patients (4.7 percent) treated with placebo or control within 1 year of follow-up, an absolute risk difference favoring flu vaccine of 1.74 percent.

The addition of the unpublished data did not materially change the results (2.9 percent influenza vaccine vs. 4.6 percent placebo or control).

In a subgroup analysis of 3 RCTs of patients with pre-existing coronary artery disease (CAD), the risk of major adverse cardiovascular events among patients with a history of recent ACS was especially lower with vaccine (10.3 percent influenza vaccine vs. 23.1 percent placebo or control), an absolute-risk difference of 12.9 percent, compared to patients with stable CAD (6.9 percent influenza vaccine vs. 7.4 percent placebo or control). Results were similar with the addition of unpublished data.


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See links below news story for helpful links to flu information


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“Within this global meta-analysis of RCTs that studied patients with high cardiovascular risk, influenza vaccination was associated with a lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events within 1 year. Influenza vaccination was particularly associated with cardiovascular prevention in patients with recent ACS.

"Future research with an adequately powered multicenter trial to confirm the efficacy of this low-cost, annual, safe, easily administered, and well-tolerated therapy to reduce cardiovascular risk beyond current therapies is warranted,” the authors conclude.

Note: Dr. Udell is supported by a Canadian Institutes for Health Research and Canadian Foundation for Women’s Health postdoctoral research fellowship award.

Editorial: Influenza Vaccination in 2013-2014 – Achieving 100 percent Participation

In an accompanying editorial, Kathleen M. Neuzil, M.D., M.P.H., of PATH, Seattle, discusses the importance of improving influenza vaccination coverage.

“There are proven ways to increase vaccination coverage, including expanding access through nontraditional settings (e.g., pharmacy, workplace, school venues), improving the use of evidence-based practices at medical sites (e.g., standing orders, reminder or recall notification), and using immunization registries.

"One of the most consistent and relevant findings of operational research is that recommendation for vaccination from physicians and other health care professionals is a strong predictor of vaccine acceptance and receipt among patients. While few are in a position to develop new influenza vaccines, all health care practitioners can recommend influenza vaccine to their patients. Doing so will help achieve the goal of 100 percent vaccination for the 2013-2014 influenza season.”

Note: Dr. Neuzil reports receiving grant funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

   Useful Links

Flu Links (HHS)

 WHO flu site

 WHO on H1N1

 CDC site

 USDA site

 Pandemic Flu (HHS)

 Seasonal Flu (NIAID)

 Seasonal Flu\(FDA)

 FDA’s Webpage on H1N1 Flu

 Avian Flu Researcher Daniel Perez site

  National Strategy for Pandemic

  HHS Pandemic Strategy for Healthcare System

CDC current reports on H1N1 (Swine Flu)

Other Flu Links

Flu Shot Locator – American Lung Association – Information about how to find a Flu Shot clinic in your area.

What Vaccines Do You Need?
– CDC – A quick quiz to help you determine which vaccinations you might need.

CMS Medicare Preventive Services: Influenza/Pneumococcal Campaign – Information on the types of vaccinations covered by Medicare. — The leading real-time influenza resource and the official site of the National Flu Surveillance Network. — This site tracks and reports the progression of the flu across the United States.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) — This site provides up-to-date vaccine information.

CDC Influenza Weekly Surveillance Reports — Maps, etc., on flu cases

Focus on the Flu (National Institute of Allergy and Infections Diseases.

Influenza Vaccine Information — Information from the FDA

Immunization Action Coalition — Works to increase immunization rates.

CIDRAP - Influenza News — The Latest Influenza News

• Pneumonia Vaccine Information Statement (pdf) — From the CDC. What you need to know!

• — Influenza Links

• National Network fo Immunization Information — Provides the public, health care workers and the media up-to-date, scientifically valid information related to immunizations.

• CDC 2004-2005 Flu Gallery — This season's educational materials for patents and providers.

• NNii Subscription to Immunization Newsbriefs — Stay informed with a free email subscription to NNii's Immunization Newsbriefs.

• — Information About Influenza and its Prevention

• Amercian Lung Association — Improving Life, One Breath at a Time.

• Swine Flu Website of Consumer Reports


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