Heart Disease Patients Don’t Get Flu Shots

Cardiologists and other clinicians should offer flu shots and possibly walk-in vaccination appointments
first responders with a heart attack victim
(Precision Vaccinations)

According to research to be presented at the American Heart Association (AHA)'s Scientific Sessions 2019 in Philadelphia, influenza vaccinations are inexpensive, easy to administer and proven to prevent illness and death in people with heart disease.

However, almost 1 in 3 patients skip the flu shot each year.

"Patients need to be educated about the benefits of the flu vaccination," said lead study author Gowtham Rama Harsha Grandhi, M.B.B.S., M.P.H., an internal medicine resident physician at MedStar Health, in a press release on November 11, 2019.

"People with heart disease are at higher risk of medical complications or death from influenza viruses."

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with about 610,000 people dying of heart disease in the USA. Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Cardiologists, primary care doctors, and other clinicians should be offering vaccination and possibly providing walk-in appointments for a flu vaccination at their centers," Dr. Grandhi said.

Researchers examined vaccination rates in more than 15,000 people age 40 and older who had experienced a heart attack, stroke or had other conditions related to clogged arteries. All were participants in the national Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 2008 and 2015. 

The AHA researchers found uninsured, low-income individuals had the highest rate of non-vaccination at 65 percent.

"We hope that flu shots among heart disease patients become an integral part of quality of care measures and will facilitate processes to limit these unintended care gaps among the most vulnerable in our society" said senior author Khurram Nasir, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., chief of Cardiovascular Prevention & director of Outcome Research at Houston Methodist, in Texas.

This study was not able to analyze the vaccination rates in young adults because there weren't enough survey participants in the 18-39 age group who had heart disease.

According to the AHA's Chief Medical Officer for Prevention, Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, this study provides additional merit for a new Association project.

"We are partnering with the American Lung Association and the American Diabetes Association to collectively deliver a message to providers and to the general public that all adults and all children, by and large, should be getting influenza vaccinations year after year.”

“But in particular, for our patients who have chronic diseases like high blood pressure, diabetes or emphysema, it is critically important to get that flu vaccine.”

“Because the consequence of the flu with complications is far, far greater for those with chronic diseases," said Dr. Sanchez.

Previously, the American Lung Association and the American Diabetes Association (ADA) joined the AHA on October 16, 2019, ‘urging 117 million adults living with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease, and lung diseases to prioritize annual flu shots within their practices.’

2019 flu vaccine news

  • November 7th, 2019 – A new report from Eurosurvellance shows that within countries of the Southern Hemisphere, the timing, duration, and intensity of the predominant circulating influenza viruses all varied during the 2019 influenza season.
  • November 5th, 2019 – The Fluzone High-Dose Quadrivalent Influenza Vaccine for use in adults 65 years of age and older has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a supplemental Biologics License Application.  

The CDC suggests everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, with rare exceptions.

Different flu vaccines are approved for use in different groups of people.

Additionally, the CDC continues to recommend that pregnant women get an influenza vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy because influenza poses a danger to pregnant women and a flu shot can prevent influenza in pregnant women.

As always, vaccination decisions should be part of an ongoing discussion between a provider and patient.

Study co-authors are Javier Valero-Elizondo, M.D., M.P.H.; Reed Mszar; Rohan Khera, M.D.; Nihar R. Desai, M.D., M.P.H.; Michael J. Blaha, M.D., M.P.H.; Ron Blankstein, M.D.; Salim S. Virani, M.D., Ph.D.; Harlan M. Krumholz, M.D.; Saad B. Omer, M.P.H., Ph.D.; and Khurram Nasir, M.D., M.P.H. Author disclosures are in the abstract.

Influenza vaccine news published by Precision Vaccinations