With the annual flu season, advice comes for people to get vaccinated. But not everyone does and some end up regretting that decision. As the race to find a COVID-19 vaccine begins, researchers confirm that the seasonal flu shot that is already available could prevent some flu-related complications.
Most people recover from the flu within 2 weeks without medical intervention. People in high-risk populations, including adults over the age of 65 and children under 2 years of age, may benefit from flu vaccination because they are more prone to flu complications. The flu can also make chronic health problems worse, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. People with heart failure are also at risk, but many studies have shown that flu vaccines can offer this population some protection from heart-related complications.
A 2013 report that reviewed 5 studies showed that people with the most active heart disease benefited the most from the vaccine. A larger study from Denmark in 2019 showed that heart failure patients who received at least one vaccination over a period of several years reduced the risk of dying from a cardiovascular or other event by 18%. And the percentage increased in patients who received more than one vaccination.
Even if you don't have any other pre-existing medical conditions, the chances of having a stroke or heart attack with severe influenza infection increase.
High risk groups are vaccinating
Although doctors are aware that flu vaccines reduce the risk of flu-related complications, vaccination rates remain low in high-risk groups. A study presented at the American Heart Association's annual conference last July found that high-risk populations in the United States continued to have low vaccination rates.
“These groups should have the highest vaccination rates because they are most at risk. However, our results show the opposite – flu shots are not being used adequately, "senior author Roshni A. Mandania of the Paul L. Foster School of Medicine at Texas Tech University said in a press release. She and other researchers examined a large database of 7 million Hospital patient who found only 168,325 had received the flu vaccine.
Vaccinated adults over 50 show health benefits
The researchers compared people who are younger than 50 years old. They discovered that 15% of people under the age of 50 who had no symptoms had been vaccinated. This pales in comparison to less than 2% of adults over 50 who were vaccinated.
When looking at the benefits of the flu vaccine for heart health alone, the researchers found a 28% lower risk of heart attack and an 85% lower risk of cardiac arrest. They also found a 47% lower risk of transient ischemic attacks (TIA), also called mini-strokes. "The results we have found are amazing," said Mandania. "It's hard to ignore the positive effects the flu vaccine can have on serious heart complications. Some people don't think flu vaccinations are necessary or important, and many may have difficulty accessing health care, including getting the flu vaccine."
Take that away
The CDC states on its website that although the influenza virus normally circulates in the US in October, it is most active from December to February and sometimes lasts until May. People are encouraged to get a flu shot in September or October, though it's usually available through January.
With the spread of COVID-19 disease, the CDC is in talks with health care providers and government officials at national and local levels to develop contingency plans that offer vaccinations for the flu.