London, UK—As pharmacists gear up for the next influenza season, here’s important new research to share when promoting immunization: The flu vaccine appears to reduce the likelihood of being hospitalized with stroke and heart failure in patients with type 2 diabetes.

An article published recently in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal) also reports that those who received the influenza vaccination had a 24% lower death rate in the flu season compared to patients who weren’t vaccinated.

For the study, researchers from Imperial College London focused on 124,503 UK adults with type 2 diabetes—65% of whom received a flu vaccine—between 2003 and 2010.

The representative sample of type 2 diabetes patients was pulled from general practice surgeries in England, with participants tracked over a 7-year period. Researchers monitored hospital admissions for heart attack, stroke, heart failure, pneumonia, and influenza, and they also looked at the number of deaths.

Compared to other patients, the results indicate that those who had been vaccinated had a 30% reduction in hospital admissions for stroke, 22% reduction in heart failure admissions, and 15% in admissions for pneumonia or influenza, in addition to the reduced death rate. A 19% reduction in hospital admissions for heart attack also was identified among vaccinated type 2 diabetes patients during the flu season but was not considered statistically significant.

“Most flu deaths every year occur in people with pre-existing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes,” explained lead author Eszter Vamos, MD, PhD. “This study suggests the vaccine may have substantial benefits for patients with long-term conditions. Not only might it help reduce serious illness such as stroke—and possibly heart attack—in high-risk individuals, but it may also reduce the risk of death in the flu season.”

Noting a paucity of studies on the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in people with diabetes, co-senior author Azeem Majeed, MD, emphasized that this research underscores the importance of immunization in patients with long-term conditions. “Although there have been questions surrounding the effectiveness of the flu vaccine in recent years, this research demonstrates a clear advantage for people with diabetes,” he added.

“This study has shown that people with type 2 diabetes may derive substantial benefits from current vaccines, including protection against hospital admission for some major cardiovascular outcomes,” study authors conclude. “These findings underline the importance of influenza vaccination as part of comprehensive secondary prevention in this high-risk population.”

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