At-Risk Asthma Patients and the Flu Vaccine

Flu vaccines in asthma patients not meeting national goals for at risk groups says CDC

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) While going without flu vaccination can mean risking an unpleasant few days of sickness for most, it can mean risking major illness and hospital time for those with certain conditions.

New research examined seasonal influenza vaccination rates among one particular at-risk group — asthma patients.

This new study found that though vaccination rates among asthma patients were higher than the general population during the 2010-11 flu season, the rates were still well below national goals.

"Discuss vaccinations with your doctor."

This study was led by Michael E. King, PhD, of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) National Center for Environmental Health.

"Although persons with asthma are not more likely than others to get influenza, influenza can make asthma symptoms worse, trigger asthma attacks, and lead to pneumonia or other complications that result in hospitalization and even death," Dr. King and colleagues explained.

These researchers reported that experts now recommend that all people aged 6 months or older get a flu vaccine, especially those who are at a higher risk for complications, like people with asthma.

To examine the seasonal influenza vaccine coverage rates of Americans with asthma, the researchers utilized data from the 2010 and 2011 National Health Interview Surveys.

These surveys included responses noting the vaccination status of 32,636 people over the age of 2 years from across the country. Of the participants, 2,809 (8.6 percent) were reported to have current asthma.

The data showed that the rate of flu vaccination for people with asthma during the 2010-11 flu season measured at 49.6 percent, compared to the 37.5 percent seen among those without current asthma.

Among asthma patients, the two age groups who had the highest vaccination coverage were people between the ages of 50 and 64 years (61.7 percent coverage) and those age 65 and older (76.5 percent coverage).

Despite the higher rate of asthma patient vaccination, Dr. King and colleagues noted that the rates for all groups were still well below national targets for the year 2020. These goals are to have 80 percent coverage of children between the ages of 6 months and 17 years and 90 percent coverage of high-risk adults over the age of 18.

"These findings highlight the need to educate health-care providers and persons with asthma about the importance of annual influenza vaccination," the authors of this study wrote.

More research is needed to confirm these findings, as the group of survey respondents with asthma was fairly small.

This study will be published December 6 in the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
December 5, 2013
Last Updated:
December 6, 2013