The content of this website is intended for healthcare professionals only

Cardiac experts urge patients to get flu vaccine

Vaccine can cut risk of heart and circulatory deaths by 24%

Adrian O'Dowd

Friday, 02 November 2018

Cardiac experts have today launched an appeal for people with heart and circulatory disease to get their flu vaccinations as increasingly cold weather is spreading across the UK.

Charity the British Heart Foundation (BHF) said it was essential that people got the vaccination from their GP practice, as existing research* published in The Lancet had suggested that flu vaccines can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in people with coronary heart disease by 24%.

The BHF said that a bad flu season may have been to blame for increases in deaths in people with heart and circulatory disease in winter 2016-2017. There were an extra 7,400 deaths from heart attacks and strokes between December 2016 and March 2017 compared with mortality between April and July in the same year.

This was supported by findings from Public Health England that the vaccine offered in 2016-2017 was not as effective as previous years, particularly for those aged 65 and over.

To tackle the problem, this year’s flu vaccine for over 65s is enhanced, and the NHS will also be offering a ‘quadrivalent’ vaccine to all under 65s in at-risk groups, which will protect against four strains of flu.

The BHF said there was evidence that heart attacks happened more often during or immediately after an infection such as flu and during three-day cold spells, events such as heart attacks and strokes were almost twice as likely as during shorter colder periods.

For this winter, NHS England is rolling out a phased distribution of the enhanced vaccine for over 65s in GP surgeries or pharmacies, said the charity, which meant some people might have their jab later than they would usually.

However, the advice from NHS England and Public Health England was that it was better to wait to have the flu jab that was more effective for a particular age group, even if this meant having it later in the year.

Maureen Talbot, senior cardiac nurse at the BHF, said: “Getting your flu vaccine really is a no brainer. If you have heart and circulatory disease and don’t get your flu jab, you could be putting yourself at serious risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Taking just five minutes out of your day could literally save your life.”

*Caldera, D; Ferreira, J J; and Costa, J. Influenza vaccination and prevention of cardiovascular disease mortality. The Lancet. DOI:10.1016/S0140-6736(18)30143-0.

Registered in England and Wales. Reg No. 2530185. c/o Wilmington plc, 5th Floor, 10 Whitechapel High Street, London E1 8QS. Reg No. 30158470