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Flu shots linked to lower rates of hospitalizations for stroke, heart failure in Type 2 diabetes patients

In a new study, Type 2 diabetes patients who got a flu shot had lower rates of hospital admission for certain cardiovascular events, as well as for pneumonia and flu, than those who were unvaccinated.

During flu season, hospital admissions for patients who were vaccinated were 30 per cent lower for stroke, 22 per cent lower for heart failure, and 15 per cent lower for pneumonia and influenza. They also had 24 per cent lower rates for deaths from any cause. Rates of hospitalization for heart attacks were not significantly different between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients.

The research included data on 124,503 Type 2 diabetes patients in England, and covered seven flu seasons from 2003-04 to 2009-10. The rate of flu vaccination among these patients ranged from 63 per cent to 69 per cent in those years.

There were some differences between vaccinated and unvaccinated patients. People who got a flu vaccination were more likely to be older, had more advanced illness, had more health problems in addition to diabetes, and took more medications than people who did not get a shot. However, they also had lower cholesterol levels and lower HbA1C levels (an indicator of blood glucose) than patients who did not get vaccinated.

In order to account for the differences between these groups, the researchers adjusted the data for factors such as age, sex, socioeconomic status, blood pressure, BMI, how long a patient had had diabetes, and other health conditions. They also used data from the summer months as a control, comparing the flu season results to rates of cardiovascular events and deaths in the summer, when flu is rare and vaccination is unlikely to be a benefit.

The study authors concluded that flu shots may provide substantial benefits for people with Type 2 diabetes, and may be an important part of secondary prevention of cardiovascular events in this patients group.

The retrospective cohort study was led by Dr. Eszter Vamos of Imperial College London in the U.K. It was published online in CMAJ on July 25, 2016.

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  • A publication of:
  • Women's College Hospital