Adult working age diabetics should be vaccinated against flu

by Barbara Hewitt on February 21, 2014

New evidence confirms current regulations in some countries that working age adults with diabetes should be vaccinated against the flu as they are more at risk of serious illness.

It is one of only two studies to have followed people with and without diabetes and compared flu-related outcomes to find that diabetics are prone to more serious bouts of flu which may even lead to hospitalisation.

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Only 16% of diabetic adults that took part in the study had been vaccinated

The research carried out by scientists at the University of Alberta School of Public Health Education in Edmonton, Canada, also calls for further studies to better understand the true effectiveness of the flu vaccine.

‘Our observation that working age adults with diabetes experience a greater burden of influenza than similar non diabetic adults provides a clinical justification for targeted anti-influenza interventions,’ said lead author Dr Jeffrey Johnson.

‘It makes intuitive sense to say people with diabetes or other chronic diseases would be at increased risk of getting influenza, so we should target them for vaccination. But intuition has often been proven wrong and it is better to do the studies and generate the best evidence we can,’ he explained.

‘This is the strongest available evidence for targeting diabetes as an indication for influenza vaccination, irrespective of age,’ he added.

The study involved 166,715 people tracked with administrative data in Manitoba, Canada, from 2000 to 2008 with a mean age of 52.5 years of which 48.5% were female.

Although the database did not specify whether the diabetes was type 1 or type 2, the researchers say the vast majority of the participants were likely to be type 2 diabetics.

After researchers took account of variables including age, sex, socioeconomic status, location of residence, comorbidities, and vaccination, the adults with diabetes had a 6% increase in all cause hospitalisations that were associated with influenza.

No significant differences were seen between the diabetes and non-diabetes groups in rates of flulike illness or pneumonia and influenza per se, however, which the authors speculate was due to the increased need for hospitalisation among diabetics.

Dr Johnson also noted that, despite the recommendations for vaccination in Canada of people with diabetes, only 16% of diabetic adults had been vaccinated in the study. And only 7% of non-diabetics had received the flu vaccination.

‘This difference was controlled for in our analysis, but in either case, it was very low use,’ he pointed out.

He and his colleagues call for further studies to better understand the true effectiveness of the flu vaccine, arguing that even if effectiveness were as low as 20%, the benefits in avoiding the costs associated with influenza related hospitalisation would still be worthwhile.

‘There are recommendations for the elderly and people with diabetes to get vaccinations, but the evidence for vaccine effectiveness is actually quite weak and is based mainly on epidemiologic and observational studies,’ Dr Johnson said.


The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of the DiabetesForum.com Community and should not be interpreted as medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any changes to your diabetes management plan.

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