Seasonal flu jab cuts first MI risk by a fifth, study shows

Seasonal flu vaccination can cut the risk of MI by a fifth, UK research suggests.

Flu jabs' other benefits assessed (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)
Flu jabs' other benefits assessed (Photograph: Jason Heath Lancy)

Patients given the seasonal flu jab were 19 per cent less likely to suffer a first MI than those unvaccinated, the researchers showed.

The authors said evidence of a protective role for influenza vaccination was growing.

Increases in acute MI have been linked to peak winter incidence of pneumonia, influenza and influenza-like syndrome.

Evidence supports infection as the cause of MI, possibly due to plaque rupture caused by a respiratory infection. It has therefore been suggested that vaccination for pneumonia and influenza may help prevent acute MI, but evidence was limited.

Professor Niroshan Siriwardena from the University of Lincoln and colleagues assessed the risk of first-time MI using primary care data for 78,706 patients aged 40 or over.

Between November 2001 and May 2007 there were 16,012 cases of MI in this group. Among the remaining patients, 62,694 were used as controls.

Influenza vaccination was received by just over half of patients in each group.

Overall, those receiving the flu vaccination within the past year were 19 per cent less likely to suffer a first MI.

This benefit was greater in patients who received early vaccination in the preceding year. For those who were vaccinated after November, risk reduction fell to 12 per cent.

However, pneumococcal vaccination did not reduce the risk of first-time MI in these patients.

Professor Siriwardena said: 'Our findings reinforce current recommendations for annual influenza vaccination of target groups, with a potential added benefit for prevention of acute MI in those without established cardiovascular disease.

'This benefit may lead to an increase in suboptimal rates of vaccination, particularly among younger patients.'

The authors added that further research could verify the findings and focus on the benefits of early vaccination. If confirmed, it could lead to changes in recommendations for timing of vaccination, they said.

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