People with diabetes are being urged to have the flu vaccine because it has been proved to reduce their risk of a fatal heart attack by 15%.

A study by Danish researchers has found that the influenza jab could significantly lower the chance of people with diabetes having a fatal cardiovascular event as well as dying from any cause.

The government has just announced that people with diabetes from England will be offered the flu vaccine in help reduce the impact of a potential COVID-19 second wave this winter.

Dr Daniel Modin and a team of researchers from the University of Copenhagen investigated the benefits of giving the vaccine to people with diabetes.

People with diabetes already have an increased cardiovascular risk and the scientists said that “the abrupt inflammatory response associated with acute infection may trigger ischemic events such as acute myocardial infarction or stroke”.

However, the findings of their research suggested that the flu jab may help to mitigate against this excess risk.

According to the results, influenza vaccinations lower the risk of cardiovascular death by 16%, fatal stroke or a heart attack by 15% or all-cause mortality by 17% in people with diabetes compared to those without it.

The researchers noted that the findings were independent of age, sex, education, income, comorbidities and medications and also whether the person had been vaccinated in the previous flu season.

The study was based on 241,551 people with an average age of 58.7 years who were all on medication to lower blood glucose levels, including insulin. A nine-year period between 2007 and 2016 was studied.

Every person with diabetes living in Denmark is offered the flu jab for free. About 50% half took this up in at least one season, with coverage averaging 33% across the seasons studied in the study.

The researchers concluded: “In patients with diabetes, influenza vaccination was associated with a reduced risk of all-cause death, cardiovascular death, and death from AMI or stroke. Influenza vaccination may improve outcomes in patients with diabetes.

They added: “[O]ur study significantly adds to the growing body of evidence indicating beneficial effects of influenza vaccination in patients with diabetes.”

The study was published in the journal Diabetes Care.

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