The flu vaccine is already known to reduce flu-related deaths and has grabbed a lot of media attention in recent years as news of global outbreaks made the headlines. However, not much was known about its effects on the lives of heart failure patients’…until now.
A recent study uncovered a link between the flu vaccine and a reduced risk of death for patients diagnosed with heart failure. The study was published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal.
Researchers assessed the data of over 130,000 heart-failure patients for a period of 12 years between 2003 and 2015. Flu vaccine uptake amongst the patients was just 16 percent in 2003 and rose to 52 percent by 2015. But the peak rate occurred in 2009 when 54 percent of the cohort group got their shots. Researchers also found the following information:
– Patients newly diagnosed with heart failure who received the vaccine were 18 percent less likely to die early, even when factors such as income level, medication, education and having other health conditions were considered.
– Patients who got the flu vaccine on a yearly basis after being diagnosed with heart failure had a 19 percent lower risk of death from cardiovascular events as well as death from all causes when compared with those who did not get the vaccine.
– Getting the vaccine less frequently than once a year but more than never was still linked to a reduced risk of death, but the effects were less stark. This is because getting the vaccine this frequently was linked to a 13 percent and eight percent lower risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular events respectively.
– The earlier patients got vaccinated in the season — which normally stretches from autumn to spring — the better their outcomes. This is because patients who got their shots in September and October were found to have a lower risk of death from all causes and cardiovascular events than those who got theirs in November and December.
The take-home message
If you’ve suffered from heart problems, it’s a good idea to stay up to date with your flu shots. The study’s lead author, Daniel Modin, an investigator from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark says that despite the study’s focus on the benefits of the vaccine for people who were newly diagnosed with heart failure, the protection it provides is likely beneficial for any patient who has been diagnosed with that condition.
He also says that recent studies show that flu vaccine coverage amongst heart failure patients is staggeringly low and he hopes these findings will help doctors involved become more aware of the importance of the vaccine. He adds that the vaccine can be included as a standard treatment for the condition in the same manner as medications.
You heard it here, flu shots are essential! And if you haven’t already, you should get yours – yes, even if you are young and don’t have any health problems, because the flu can severely sicken and kill healthy people too. And you can get it for free; just show up to your PHCC with your health card!
By Tesneem Ayoub