Flu jab appears to help people with heart failure, says new research

26th May 2016

People with heart failure who have the flu jab are less likely to be admitted to hospital, says new research.

The research, presented at Heart Failure 2016 in Italy last week, showed the jab is associated with a reduced risk of hospital admission. 

The event was the annual congress of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC).  The ESC represents more than 95,000 medical professionals working in cardiolgoy across Europe. 

The study, in about 60 000 patients, ends the controversy over influenza vaccination in heart failure patients and provides more robust evidence for current recommendations, said the ESC in a press release.

Professor Kazem Rahimi, deputy director of the George Institute for Global Health, at Oxford Unversity, said: “Many guidelines recommend that elderly patients and those with co-morbidities including heart failure should have annual flu vaccinations to reduce the risk of adverse events.”

“Uptake of the flu vaccination in heart failure patients is relatively low, ranging from less than 20% in low and middle income countries to 50–70% in high income countries like the UK,” he continued. “This may partly be because there is no strong evidence to support the recommendation in these patients. In fact, there is limited evidence to suggest that vaccination may be less effective in heart failure patients than in the general population because of their blunted immune response.”

The researchers used records from 4.9 million adults in the UK for the study. Almost 60,000 had heart failure. Flu vaccination was associated with a 30% lower risk of hospital admission for people with heart diseases. 

“These findings do not suggest that influenza infection causes myocardial infarction or other cardiovascular events,” said Professor Rahimi. “A more likely explanation for the reduction in risk is that vaccination reduces the likelihood of an infection which could in turn trigger cardiovascular deterioration.  

Professor Rahimi said: “The findings do provide further evidence that there are likely worthwhile benefits and on that basis more efforts are needed to ensure that heart failure patients receive an annual flu jab.”

For more details, see here.