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You may be protecting your heart with a flu vaccine

Harold Mandel's picture
Flu sufferer

There has been a great deal of controversy about the safety of the flu vaccine. In view of the fact that the flu can be very costly in terms of lost days at work and in some extreme cases even premature death, getting the flu vaccine is certainly worth consideration. Furthermore, statistics show that the flu can be particularly dangerous for elderly people and therefore in people over 65 years old in particular the flu vaccine may prove to be life saving.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) points out that influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes to death. Even people who are generally very healthy can get extremely ill from the flu and spread it to others. Estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, have ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people. During the seasonal flu season which generally runs from as early as October and lasts as late as May, about 90 percent of deaths from the flu occur in people 65 years and older. The CDC takes the position that an annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to lower the chances that you will get seasonal flu and spread it to others.

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The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has reported, "Flu Vaccine Associated With Lower Risk of Cardiovascular Events." According to a meta-analysis, receiving an influenza vaccination was associated with a decreased risk of major adverse cardiovascular events such as heart failure or hospitalization for heart attack. The greatest treatment effect was seen among patients with recent acute coronary syndrome. There has been an interest in a potential association which exists between respiratory tract infections, of which influenza and influenza-like illnesses are common causes, and subsequent cardiovascular events.

In an editorial accompanying this JAMA article, Kathleen M. Neuzil, M.D., M.P.H., has discussed the importance of improving influenza vaccination coverage. Neuzil states there are proven ways to increase vaccination coverage, which include expanding access through nontraditional settings, such as pharmacy, workplace, school venues, improving the use of evidence-based practices at medical sites, such as standing orders, reminder or recall notification, and the use of immunization registries.

One of the most consistent and relevant findings of operational research has been that recommendations for vaccination from physicians and other health care professionals serves as a strong predictor of vaccine acceptance and receipt among patients. All health care practitioners are in a position recommend influenza vaccine to their patients. Doing this could help achieve the goal of 100 percent vaccination for the 2013-2014 influenza season. With these considerations in mind, more physicians, nurses and patients should be taking recommendations for the flu vaccine more seriously than ever before.


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I find that I just get sick once I get a vaccination and am sick all winter versus when I do not...