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New Studies Suggest Statins May Dampen Flu Shot Effectiveness

Manufacturers say the flu vaccine for this season is much more effective than last year’s. However, two new studies suggest flu vaccines in general may not work as well if you take statins.

In this edition of Vital Signs, Dr. Jeffrey Kahn, Chief of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at UT Southwestern Medical Center, says the studies aren't definitive, but the results are provocative.

Highlights from Dr. Kahn’s interview:

About the studies:“We’ve known for a long time thatstatins, which are used to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk coronary artery disease, also have effects on inflammation and immune responses, so we knowstatinscan be anti-inflammatory.  So the questions came up, whether people who are receivingstatinswould have a diminished response to vaccines and these two studies specifically looked at influenza vaccine.”

First Study:“One (study) angle was looking at a vaccine trial where they were comparing individuals who were receivingstatinsto those who weren’t receivingstatins. It appeared that the response to the influenza vaccine was less robust in those takingstatinsthan in those who didn’t. You have to be cautious how we interpret this It could be these two groups weren’t equal. It could be the people takingstatinshad more underlying illnesses which may impair their response to influenza vaccine. Or that individuals who didn’t takestatinswere healthier and, therefore, had a greater response to the vaccine.”

Second study:“The second study looked at it from a very different angle – individuals who had respiratory illnesses. And again, they saw those were receivingstatinsseem to have more of these medical attendant acute respiratory infections, suggesting that the vaccine efficacy in these patients was lower. We don’t know if the two groups were equivalent. It could be people were going to the doctor because of underlying illnesses. We don’t know prior histories of a lot of these patients."

In conclusion:“The jury’s still out. The bottom line is continue to take yourstatinsand continue to get your flu shots.”

For more information:

Two reports on flu shots &statins:

Led by Dr. Steven Black, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital 

Led  bySaadB.Omer , an associate professor at the Emory Vaccine Center in Atlanta 


U.S. National Library of Medicine:Statins May Dampen Protective Powers of Flu Vaccines 

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