A review indicates that influenza vaccination for patients with cardiovascular disease is underutilized as a method of coronary prevention.

The authors noted there is “compelling evidence” linking influenza infection and the occurrence of acute myocardial infarction (MI)—in some cases, as early as within the first 3 days of an influenza respiratory illness and lasting up to 1 year.

Influenza vaccine has demonstrated protective effectiveness against acute MI between 19% and 45%, according to several observational studies.2-4 Furthermore, a randomized controlled trial published in 2011 found a 10% reduction in major cardiovascular events in patients with acute coronary syndromes who received the vaccine during a 12-month follow-up period.5

Among the efficacy/effectiveness rates of other secondary prevention methods for MI, the influenza vaccine is within a similar range. Smoking cessation is associated with reductions in MI between 32% and 43%, statins between 19% and 30%, and antihypertensive drugs between 17% and 25%.

Given the costs spent on both acute treatment of MI and long-term management of coronary heart disease (CHD), the authors posit that implementing an influenza vaccination strategy would be relatively inexpensive, safe, and evidence-based public health measure. Vaccination has already demonstrated cost-effectiveness in the prevention of flu-like illnesses and hospitalization for pneumonia and influenza, even without consideration of its efficacy in acute MI prevention.6

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