Flu vaccines can Save The Day

There is a strong relationship between heart failure and respiratory illness due to infection.[1] It makes good sense that if a safe way to prevent infection from developing into illness exists, it would be a good idea to use it. Right? It turns out that we already have one of those.[2] The influenza (Flu) vaccine can reduce deaths in patients with coronary disease.

Heart failure

Heart failure occurs in around half a million adults in Australia. It contributed to 1 in 8 deaths in 2016.[4]
Flu virus infections make matters much worse. They can be very serious for patients who already have heart failure.[3]

Heart failure represents around 10% of cardiovascular disease.[5]

A new study from Denmark

A new study from Denmark followed a cohort of 134,048 patients, each for around 3 years.[3] Those who were vaccinated more than once had better survival outcomes.

After accounting for a whole lot of confounding factors, patients who got 1 or more Flu vaccinations over the years following their heart failure diagnosis experienced an 18% reduction in the risk of all-cause and cardiovascular deaths.

A vaccination frequency of more than zero times per year but less than once per year resulted in a 13% reduced risk of all-cause death and an 8% reduction of cardiovascular death.

Better when the vaccine matches the Flu strains and when given earlier

For a Flu season where the vaccine wasn’t such a great match for the circulating viral strains, the beneficial relationship wern’t as obvious. Which makes sense.


Flu vaccination and heart failure. Important, inexpensive, accessible and safe

It’s isn’t difficult to see how having a universal Flu vaccine will one day save many more lives. Such a vaccine is not affected by year-to-year virus variation, weakening immunity to a specific strain and misjudgement of which strains should be included in the vaccine. These improvements will increase vaccine uptake.

The Danish study also found that vaccination earlier on in the Flu season was better than later in the season.

What to do about these findings?

If you (or your loved ones) have heart failure, talk to your doctor about getting the Flu vaccine. Also, make sure vaccination happens early and every year.

Flu vaccination rates can be low, even in high-risk populations such as this one. These rates need to increase to deliver the benefits of improve survival in heart failure patients.

The Flu vaccine has once again proven itself an essential, inexpensive, accessible and safe element of high-quality care for patients with heart failure. These vaccines can save the day. If they are used.

References

  1. Predictors and outcomes of infection-related hospital admissions of heart failure patients
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3751916/
  2. Influenza Vaccination in Patients With Heart Failure Time to Give It Our Best Shot
    https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.038348
  3. Influenza Vaccine in Heart Failure Cumulative Number of Vaccinations, Frequency, Timing, and Survival: A Danish Nationwide Cohort Study.
    https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.118.036788
  4. New guidelines for growing number of Australians with heart failure
    https://www.heartfoundation.org.au/news/new-guidelines-for-growing-number-of-australians-with-heart-failure
  5. Cardiovascular disease snapshot
    https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/heart-stroke-vascular-disease/cardiovascular-health-compendium/contents/deaths-from-cardiovascular-disease

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