Flu shot as important as statins for protecting against cardiac events

Wednesday, 6 May 2020


The Heart Foundation is urging doctors to prioritise at-risk patients with heart disease to ensure they have a seasonal influenza vaccination this year.

Chronic conditions put people at very high risk of cardiac events after a stroke, but new figures show that many patients with cardiovascular disease don’t intend to have a flu shot.

“We know that people with heart disease are at increased risk of hospitalisation or death associated with influenza infection, and the risk of acute myocardial infarction in the general population is six times greater in the week after getting the flu,” says Natalie Raffoul, the Heart Foundation’s Manager of Risk Reduction.

“Many health professionals may not know that influenza vaccination can reduce the risk of myocardial infarction by between 15 -45%, which is on par with or better than many established preventative therapies including statins, antihypertensives and smoking cessation,” she said.

But the uptake of influenza vaccination in people with heart disease who are younger than 65 is poor, and new figures show that the disruption and infection fears around COVID-10 pandemic may be deterring many people from getting flu vaccination.

Based on responses from more than 1000 people, the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Impacts of COVID-19 Survey estimated that about 90% of  Australians (17.2 million people) have not had a flu vaccination this year. Of these, 29% (4.9 million) said they do not intend to have a flu vaccination this year.

Ms Raffoul noted that delays in distributing flu vaccine this year have been challenging for primary care providers. As a result many medical practices and pharmacies have set up waiting lists and staggered vaccination clinics.

“Around 50% of Australians with chronic conditions that put them at increased risk of influenza complications, including heart disease and stroke, have a flu shot each year, indicating that the other half may need more information about the risks and extra encouragement to book a flu shot,” she said.

“The cross-over between the current COVID-19 pandemic and influenza season makes it even more important for vulnerable groups to get their flu vaccine,” the Heart Foundation said in a statement.

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