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One-Third of Heart Patients Skip Their Flu Shot

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 13, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- It seems like a no brainer: The flu shot protects heart patients from illness and death, so getting one should be the first thing they do every year before the season starts.

But new research shows that a third of these vulnerable patients don't get vaccinated.

"Patients need to be educated about the benefits of the flu vaccination," said study lead author Dr. Gowtham Grandhi, an internal medicine resident physician at MedStar Health in Baltimore. "People with heart disease are at higher risk of medical complications or death from the flu."

In the study, Grandhi and his colleagues examined data collected between 2008 and 2015 on flu shot rates among more than 15,000 people, aged 40 and older, in the United States who'd had a heart attack, stroke or had other conditions associated with clogged arteries.

Nearly 1 in 3 didn't get a flu shot in the past year, including almost 30% of those who had health insurance or a regular source of medical care.

Even so, uninsured and low-income people were most likely to go without a flu shot (65%), according to the study to be presented at the American Heart Association (AHA) annual meeting, held Nov. 16-18, in Philadelphia.

"Our study sheds light on key inequalities related to disparities in flu vaccination rates," said study senior author Dr. Khurram Nasir, chief of cardiovascular prevention Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center.

"Future studies should put emphasis on patient and health system factors driving these disparities and practical interventions to overcome these challenges," Nasir added in an AHA news release.

The findings should be considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.

"Cardiologists, primary care doctors and other clinicians need to have a conversation about flu vaccination well in advance of the onset of flu season to encourage patients to have routine follow-up appointments early in the flu season," Grandhi said in the release. "Additionally, they should be offering vaccination and possibly providing walk-in appointments for flu vaccination at their centers."

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on heart disease.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, Nov. 11, 2019

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