Alarming Number of Heart Disease Patients Skip Annual Flu Shot

November 15, 2019

Researchers of the new study being presented at the upcoming AHA 2019 Scientific Sessions highlight key inequalities related to disparities in the vaccination rates. 

Approximately 1 in 3 patients with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) do not get the influenza vaccination each year despite it being an easy and inexpensive way to prevent illness and death in those patients, according to preliminary research.

The research will be presented at the upcoming American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2019 Scientific Sessions, November 16-18, in Philadelphia. (AHA Poster Presentation MDP377)

Researchers examined vaccination rates in >15 000 patients with ASCVD (aged ≥40 years) who participated in the national Medical Expenditure Panel Survey between 2008 and 2015.

Researchers asked participants whether they received a flu vaccination in the last year and found:

  • ~1 in 3 patients had not been vaccinated in the past year (32%, 95% CI: 30.2%, 33.0%)

  • ~30% of patients with insurance and a regular source of medical care had not been vaccinated

  • Uninsured, low-income patients had the highest rate of non-vaccination (65%)

“Our study sheds light on key inequalities related to disparities in flu vaccination rates,” said senior author Khurram Nasir, MD, MPH, MSc, Chief of Cardiovascular Prevention, Director of Outcome Research, Houston Methodist Hospital, Texas, in an AHA press release. “We hope that flu vaccinations among heart disease patients becomes an integral part of quality of care measures and will facilitate processes to limit these unintended care gaps among the most vulnerable in our society.”

Patients with heart disease are at an increased risk for medical complications or mortality from the flu, so researchers emphasized the need for patient education prior to flu season.

“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,” said lead study author Gowtham Rama Harsha Grandhi, MBBS, MPH, internal medicine resident physician, MedStar Health, Baltimore, Maryland, in the AHA press release.

Grandhi added that physicians should offer vaccination as well as walk-in appointments for vaccination at their clinics to further encourage ASCVD patients to get the flu shot.

Due to the fact that patient history was obtained through surveys and not verified with medical records, researchers noted that inaccuracies in patient recall may have influenced study results.

“Future studies should put emphasis on patient and health system factors driving these disparities and practical interventions to overcome these challenges,” Nasir concluded.

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