The chances of hospital admission for people with type 2 diabetes who have a stroke or heart failure could be reduced if they have a flu vaccine, a study suggests.
Researchers also found there was a 24 per cent lower risk of death during the flu season in those who had undergone the influenza vaccination.
The findings, compiled by a team from Imperial College London, have been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
The team studied 124,503 adults in the UK who had type 2 diabetes with around 65 per cent of them having had the flu jab.
The research, which took place across a seven-year period, showed there was a 30 per cent reduction in hospitalisation for stroke in those who had had the vaccine.
There was also a 22 per cent reduction in heart failure admission and pneumonia or influenza admissions went down by 15 per cent, when compared to those who had not had the jab.
Lead author of the study Dr Eszter Vamos, from the School of Public Health at Imperial, said: “Most flu deaths every year occur in people with pre-existing health conditions such as type 2 diabetes.
“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.
“Currently more than one-third of people with diabetes do not receive their flu vaccine year-by-year in England. By increasing the number of people receiving influenza vaccine annually, we could further reduce the risk of severe illness not addressed by other measures.”
Type 2 diabetes currently affects around 2.7 million people in the UK and those who have the condition are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, heart disease and stroke.
Those who have cardiovascular disease are at a higher risk of having a heart attack or stroke if they were to become ill with flu, although researchers are unsure of the reason behind this.
Professor Azeem Majeed, co-senior author from the School of Public Health at Imperial added: “There are few studies looking at the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine in people with diabetes.
“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.
“The findings of the study illustrate the importance of flu vaccine in reducing the risk of ill-health and death in people with long-term conditions. The flu vaccine is available free to these patients from GPs and pharmacists, and patients with diabetes should ensure they receive the vaccine every year.”
The flu jab is available annually to children and adults with underlying health conditions such as type 2 diabetes, as well as to all over-65s and pregnant women.
The research was supported by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care Scheme (CLAHRC) Northwest London and the NIHR Imperial Biomedical Research Centre (BRC).

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