Influenza vaccination: a ‘shot’ at INVESTing in cardiovascular health.

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The link between viral respiratory infection and non-pulmonary organ-specific injury, including cardiac injury, has become increasingly appreciated during the current coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Even prior to the pandemic, however, the association between acute infection with influenza and elevated cardiovascular risk was evident. The recently published results of the NHLBI-funded INfluenza Vaccine to Effectively Stop CardioThoracic Events and Decompensated (INVESTED) trial, a 5200 patient comparative effectiveness study of high-dose vs. standard-dose influenza vaccine to reduce cardiopulmonary events and mortality in a high-risk cardiovascular population, found no difference between strategies. However, the broader implications of influenza vaccine as a strategy to reduce morbidity in high-risk patients remain extremely important, with randomized controlled trial and observational data supporting vaccination in high-risk patients with cardiovascular disease. Given a favourable risk-benefit profile and widespread availability at generally low cost, we contend that influenza vaccination should remain a centrepiece of cardiovascular risk mitigation and describe the broader context of underutilization of this strategy. Few therapeutics in medicine offer seasonal efficacy from a single administration with generally mild, transient side effects, and exceedingly low rates of serious adverse effects. Infection control measures such as physical distancing, hand washing, and the use of masks during the COVID-19 pandemic have already been associated with substantially curtailed incidence of influenza outbreaks across the globe. Appending annual influenza vaccination to these measures represents an important public health and moral imperative.

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Authors: Ankeet S Bhatt, Orly Vardeny, Jacob A Udell, Jacob Joseph, KyungMann Kim, Scott D Solomon