Study: Vaccinating diabetics against flu cuts risk of death by 28%

The increased risk influenza poses to diabetics is well established, with health agencies warning that the virus can overwhelm the immune system and lead to fluctuations in blood sugar levels. Now a study has calculated that reducing the likelihood of these complications by vaccinating against flu is associated with a 28% drop in the risk of death.

Simon O'Neill--Courtesy of DAFNE

A team of researchers from Imperial College London (ICL) presented the 28% figure in a discussion of their preliminary findings at a diabetes conference in the United Kingdom this week. The effect of vaccination on the risk of death was calculated by analyzing the health histories of 124,503 patients with Type 2 diabetes over a 7-year period. Patients who received the flu vaccine were 28% less likely to die in the following 12 months than those who weren't immunized.

"This study is further evidence of the importance of being vaccinated if you have diabetes because having the flu can be much more serious for people with the condition than it is for the rest of the population," Simon O'Neill, director of health intelligence at Diabetes UK, said in a statement seen by Nursing Times. Health authorities in the U.K. and U.S. recommend diabetics get vaccinated, but the message isn't reaching everyone. Only two-thirds of U.K. diabetics under the age of 65 get the shot.

The study also linked vaccination to a 30% lower risk of stroke and 21% lower risk of acute myocardial infarction. A separate study published last month found that the flu vaccine is associated with a similar decline in stroke risk in the broader population. Both findings could be caused by confounding factors--such as the fact that people who get vaccinated may be better at managing their diabetes--but the ICL team thinks the vaccine is playing a role. An analysis of data from Canada published earlier this year found that diabetics are 6% more likely to be hospitalized with flu.

- read Nursing Times' article
- check out GP​'s take
- here's the Canadian study