Flu Shot Touted as "Vaccine Against Cardiovascular Events"

by Sarah VaccinationComments: 21

flu shots for the heart

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think the pharmaceutical industry could get any more desperate than this latest attempt to trigger a stampede to the nearest Walgreens:

As millions of Americans continue to reject annual flu shots doubtful of both safety and efficacy, a new “study” conveniently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association just as the new flu season begins claims that those who get their annual influenza jab might enjoy a 55 percent reduced chance of heart problems in the coming year.

Lead researcher Dr. Jacob Udell of the University of Toronto went so far as to boldly proclaim,“This could be a vaccine against cardiovascular events.”

His well placed sound bites as reported by conventional news outlets like NBC News (which enjoys major financial support from the pharmaceutical industry) continued:

In our primary results/findings, of the 6,700 patients, half got the flu vaccine and half the placebo or standard care, only a third of patients had a history of heart disease. But among those who got the flu shot, we saw a 36 percent lower risk of a major cardiac event! Not too shabby.

The biggest “scientific” leap of all?  The “hope” of the study’s researchers that the flu vaccine could work to prevent heart issues and could potentially guard everyone’s cardiovascular health. “We know that inflammation can trigger plaques to rupture and cause blockage of vessels, which causes heart attacks,” Udell said.

It is indeed known that people who get the flu are at higher risk for heart problems. However, the flu shot reducing this risk is slim to none as multiple studies have clearly demonstrated that the flu shot doesn’t even work.

A 2012 study out of the University of Minnesota regarding the efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines found that “current influenza vaccine protection is substantially lower than for most routine recommended vaccines and is suboptimal.”

Even the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy and lead researcher of the study, Michael T. Osterholm, is questioning the effectiveness of the vaccine. He put it bluntly: “We have overpromoted and overhyped this (flu) vaccine, it does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.” 

It is easy to see how the sales job happened if one examines the extensive conflict of interest disclosures for the downright laughable claim that “flu vaccines protect the heart”.

Below is the jaw droppingly long list of conflicts of interest reported for this study. Please note the numerous times where financial or personal ties to the pharmaceutical industry are indicated:

Conflict of Interest Disclosures: All authors have completed and submitted the ICMJE Form for Disclosure of Potential Conflicts of Interest. Dr Bhatt reports serving on the advisory board for Elsevier Practice Update Cardiology, Medscape Cardiology, and Regado Biosciences; serving on the board of directors for Boston VA Research Institute and the Society of Cardiovascular Patient Care; serving as chair for the American Heart Association Get With The Guidelines steering committee; receiving honoraria from the American College of Cardiology, Belvoir Publications, Duke Clinical Research Institute, Population Health Research Institute, Slack Publications, and WebMD; serving as a senior associate editor for the Journal of Invasive Cardiology; serving on data monitoring committees for Duke Clinical Research Institute, Harvard Clinical Research Institute, Mayo Clinic, and the Population Health Research Institute; receiving grant funding from Amarin, AstraZeneca, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eisai, Ethicon, Medtronic, sanofi-aventis, and The Medicines Company; and conducting research for FlowCo, PLx Pharma, and Takeda. Dr Gaughran reports receiving grant funding from Guys and St Thomas’ Charitable Trustees and Abbott; receiving honoraria from various pharmaceutical companies for advisory, consultation or lecturing work in the field of mental health, including Bristol-Myers Squibb, Lundbeck, Roche, and Sunovion; and having a family member with professional affiliations to Eli Lilly and GlaxoSmithKline. Dr Vakili reports receiving grant funding from Shahid Beheshti University. Dr Farkouh reports consulting for AstraZeneca, Eli Lilly, Pfizer, sanofi-aventis; and receiving grant funding from Merck. Dr Cannon reports serving on a data safety and monitoring board for a trial sponsored by Merck; consulting for Alnylam, Bristol-Myers Squibb, CSL Behring, Lipimedix, and Pfizer; serving as clinical advisor and equity shareholder for Automedics Medical Systems; receiving grant funding from Accumetrics, AstraZeneca, Essentialis, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Regeneron, sanofi-aventis, and Takeda; and receiving reimbursement for travel accommodations from AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Merck, Regeneron, sanofi-aventis, and Takeda. No other disclosures were reported.

Undisclosed Conflict of Interest Common in Studies Published in Major Journals

Believe it or not, additional disclosures besides the extensive list above are likely, as “authors whose articles appear in leading academic journals do not always comply with the journals’ conflict of interest disclosure policies” (source).

The Journal of the American Medical Association is one of the leading journals that consistently has a poor track record of compliance with conflict of interest disclosure policies (source).

Ultimately, where there’s smoke, there’s fire and I certainly wouldn’t be running out to get a flu shot in the naive and misguided belief that it will somehow benefit cardiovascular heath.

Sarah, The Healthy Home Economist


Marching to Different Drummers: Health Advocacy Groups in Canada and Funding from the Pharmaceutical Industry

Association Between Influenza Vaccination and Cardiovascular Outcomes in High-Risk Patients

Flu shot may cut risk of heart problems, analysis finds

Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines: a systematic review and meta-analysis

Unrevealed: Non-Disclosure of Conflicts of Interest In Four Leading Medical and Scientific Journals

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