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Getting a Flu Vaccine This Season? This Drug Could Impact Its Effectiveness

Statins medicine capsules on top of the medicine box.

You’ve heeded the advice of your medical professional to protect yourself from the flu by getting vaccinated – but somehow you still get it. What’s up with that? Well, if you’re one of the millions of Americans with high cholesterol who is taking meds, known as statins, to lower it – you could be messing with your flu shot’s effectiveness.

Now what?

Okay, so now you’re probably thinking – what are you supposed to do? Should you go without one so as to not interfere with the other? Actually, that may not be the best route to take.

It’s particularly problematic among adults over 65. In fact, a new report showed that many of those senior statin users tested had a significantly reduced immune response to the flu vaccine. Furthermore, in a second study, those not taking statins had a higher effectiveness of preventing serious respiratory illness related to the flu than patients who took them regularly.

Published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, the research findings proved two things – the elderly are more likely to die or face serious complications from the flu and, they’re equally as likely to be taking statins to control their cholesterol as a means to control the risk of a potentially fatal heart attack or stroke.

Don’t stop taking your statins

Because more in depth research is needed to determine exactly how statins interfere with common vaccines and which is the best path to take, don’t stop taking your meds. Dr. Robert Atmar, an infectious disease researcher at Baylor College of Medicine – who authored an accompanying editorial to the findings – recommends that older patients “should stay the course with both their medications and vaccinations”.

Though considered risky at this point with regards to heart disease and stroke, lead study author Steven Black of the Center for Global Health at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital in Ohio, believes it may be possible to pause the use of statins prior to immunization in an effort to prevent the diminished effectiveness of the flu vaccine. But, again – this could present dangerous consequences without further testing and should not be attempted.

Another option, according to Black, could be to give multiple or more potent doses of the flu shot to those individuals who use statins.
While the flu can severely affect all age groups, seniors are not just at risk for serious illness and complications – including death as a result of the influenza bug – but they also face the risk of heart disease and stroke from high cholesterol without taking their statins.

In conclusion

Caught between the proverbial “rock and a hard place,” seniors need to follow the current recommendations. Get your flu shot and keep taking those statins…until research comes up with a better solution.

You also want to make sure you’ve got the most affordable health insurance coverage available through Covered California. And, if you’re turning 65 and it’s a Medicare plan you need, now is the perfect time to get covered.

For standard healthcare coverage you only have until January 31st, 2016 to sign up or you could face a penalty for not having health insurance. Why not get your free health insurance quotes today?

Are you taking statins for high cholesterol and have you gotten a flu shot? Have you noticed either to be less effective? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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