Skipping flu shot increases hospitalization risk by up to 158 percent, according to Fresenius Medical Care study presented at 2016 kidney week meeting.
Hemodialysis patients who skipped the influenza vaccine were significantly more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated, suggests a three-year study of more than 150,000 kidney dialysis patients being presented today in Chicago at 2016 Kidney Week, the annual meeting of the American Society of Nephrology (ASN). The study is one of 66 abstracts authored by Fresenius Medical Care researchers, clinicians, and caregivers to be presented at the meeting and published in the Abstract Supplement of Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN).
The study tracked kidney failure patients who were vaccinated against the flu, including at U.S. Fresenius Kidney Care dialysis centers where they received their hemodialysis therapy. The percentage of Fresenius Kidney Care patients who opted for yearly vaccination against the flu increased from 60 percent the first year of the study to 80 percent the third year. Fresenius Medical Care North America is the premier health care company focused on providing the highest quality care to people with renal and other chronic conditions.
"While almost everyone should be vaccinated against influenza, people with kidney failure who are on dialysis are at high risk for complications if they get sick, which is why it is vital they get the flu vaccine every year," said Nien Chen Li, MPH, MS, MA, lead author of the study and biostatistician for Fresenius Medical Care. "We're gratified to see that our patients are increasingly choosing to be vaccinated."
Like others with chronic illnesses, people with kidney failure are at higher risk for getting the flu. They also become sicker if they do get the infection and may get dehydrated or develop pneumonia, leading to hospitalization. Additionally, many of them have other risk factors, including diabetes and heart disease. Over a 30-year period, deaths from the flu ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 a year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates.
Fresenius Medical Care strongly encourages patients to receive flu vaccination and offers these vaccinations at its dialysis centers. In the study, researchers tracked flu vaccination and hospitalization rates among 158,326 patients in 2013-2014; 202,793 in 2014-2015; and 220,203 in 2015-2016. Patients who skipped vaccination were 53 percent more likely to be hospitalized during the flu season the first year, 87 percent more likely the second year and 158 percent more likely to be hospitalized the third year.
"The results of this research suggest that aggressive programs to promote flu vaccination makes a significant difference in keeping kidney patients healthy and out of the hospital," said Dr. Frank Maddux, Fresenius Medical Care Chief Medical Officer and Executive Vice President for Clinical and Scientific Affairs. "We make it easy for patients by offering the flu vaccine at the clinic where they receive their care and explaining to them why the flu shot is important to their health. More and more patients are taking advantage of these crisis-preventing vaccinations."
More than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure, meaning their kidneys can no longer effectively filter their blood to get rid of wastes and excess fluid. Of those with kidney failure, 468,000 are receiving dialysis, in which an artificial kidney (dialyzer) filters blood and returns it to the body.