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Study: Flu jab 'reduces' stroke risk

Having the seasonal flu jab could reduce the risk of having a stroke by more than a quarter, researchers have discovered. 

Patients who had been vaccinated against influenza were 24% less likely to suffer a stroke in the same flu season, researchers from the University of Lincoln and the University of Nottingham found. 

The researchers have called for “further experimental studies” to understand the relationship between flu vaccination and stroke risk. 

“However, these findings reinforce the value of the UKs national flu vaccination programme with reduced risk of stroke appearing to be an added health benefit,” the authors wrote. 

Professor Niro Siriwardena, a professor of primary and pre-hospital healthcare who also works as a GP, led the research which published in the journal Vaccine. 

Professor Siriwardena said: “The causes of stroke are not fully understood. We know that cardiovascular diseases tend to hit during winter and that the risks may be heightened by respiratory infections such as flu. 

"Our study showed a highly significant association between flu vaccination and reduced risk of stroke within the same flu season. The results were consistent with our previous research into heart attack risk."

Data were drawn from the UK's national General Practice Research Database (now the Clinical Practice Research Datalink).

Alongside flu vaccine take-up, they also looked at take-up of pneumococcal vaccination, which protects against infections like pneumonia.

In the UK, the seasonal flu vaccination is recommended for everyone over 65 years of age and other at-risk groups, such as those with disabilities or chronic illnesses.

Take-up of the vaccine across England is lower than national targets at 74% for over-65s in 2011/12 and around 52% for under-65s in at-risk groups.

The study is available to view [paywalled] on the Vaccine website