Flu vaccine may help prevent stroke

Flu vaccine may help prevent stroke

The annual flu vaccine has been attributed to a substantially reduced risk of stroke.

This is according to the Pharmaceutical Journal, which has published details of a large UK-wide case study. It found the results achieved mirrored the positive effect the jab had against fighting heart attack. 

Consultant pharmacist Sotiris Antoniou outlined the mechanism which links the vaccine to stroke lies in the procoagulant effects of flu infections. This is also found in other forms of vascular disease, meaning taking preventative measures against influenza, could also increase the likelihood of contracting these other illnesses.

Scientists in the study group used information taken from the UK General Practice Research Database to identify 26,784 adults who had suffered between 2001 and 2009. The research found that same-season recipients of the flu jab experienced a 24 per cent reduction in the risk of stroke.

The effect appeared to be at its strongest when the vaccine was administered early in the influenza season (between September and mid-November), achieving an odds ratio (OR) 0.74. Meanwhile, it became less-effective as the season wore on, with only an OR of 0.92.

In addition, the protective nature of the jab seemed to be more apparent in patients over the age of 65. The study found people in this demographic had an OR of 0.74, compared to 0.8 for younger patients.

Lead investigator Niro Siriwardena, of the University of Lincoln and Lincolnshire Community Health Services NHS Trust, commented that the results, if verified, "reinforce the value of the UK’s national flu vaccination programme with reduced risk of stroke appearing to be an added health benefit."

The report's authors claim the influenza jab could result in improvements the general health of the country's population and may also encourage more people to have the injection. They do, however, acknowledge that more randomised studies would be necessary so that the benefits of the vaccine in terms of stroke prevention could be further assessed.