By NICHOLAS BAKALAR New York Times
Getting a flu vaccine is associated with a lower risk of death in people with heart disease, a review of studies has found, and the effect is greatest in those who have had a recent heart attack or chest pain.
The review included five randomized trials that involved more than 6,400 heart patients. In all, there were 246 heart attacks and other major cardiovascular events, and 97 deaths from heart disease.
For patients with stable heart disease, a vaccination decreased the relative risk for a cardiovascular event by 36 percent. For those who had had a heart attack within the last year, the effect was greater: a 55 percent reduction in relative risk. Over all, those who were vaccinated had a 19 percent reduced risk of death.
The authors acknowledge that their conclusions are based on a relatively small number of cardiovascular events and deaths. At the same time, the review, which was published in JAMA, covered all randomized trials done on the subject, and there is no suggestion of inconsistency among them.
“People who don’t like vaccines probably don’t like dying from heart attacks either,” said the lead author, Dr. Jacob A. Udell, a cardiologist at the University of Toronto. “Maybe this is a good enough reason for the skeptics to go and get their flu shots.”