Experts recommend that people with chronic diseases, including heart failure, have the flu vaccine every year. However, new research suggests that only around half of all patients with heart failure are getting the jab.
The study, by a group at The George Institute for Global Health in the UK, looked at data from 60,000 people. Researchers compared hospitalisation rates for patients in years when they had the flu vaccine to years when they did not have the vaccine.
The key finding was that heart failure patients were significantly less likely to be hospitalised if they had the flu vaccine. Specifically, for people who had the vaccine, the risk of hospital admission due to a cardiovascular event is reduced by about one third. And the risk of admission for respiratory illness is cut by 20%, according to the paper published in the European Heart Journal.
The team behind the study said the research is conclusive evidence that flu vaccination is particularly beneficial for people with heart failure and should prompt doctors to strongly recommend the vaccine to their patients.
Professor Rahimi Deputy Director of The George Institute for Global Health, UK, called the findings the “most compelling evidence to date” that annual vaccination is important for heart failure patients.
“There is a big gap between what could be done and what is currently practised,” said Professor Kazem Rahimi, “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. However, uptake in heart failure patients ranges from 20% in low and middle-income countries to 50-70% in higher income countries.”