Employee & Community Health

Questions about statins & the flu vaccine?

11/4/2015 by Robert M. Jacobson, MD

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You may have heard in the news lately that a new study found those individuals who take statin drugs may have less protection from the flu vaccine than those who don't. 

Statin drugs help lower cholesterol levels and help prevent blood vessel disease that can cause heart disease and strokes. They include:

  • Atorvastatin (Lipitor®)
  • Fluvastatin (Lescol®)
  • Lovastatin (Mevacor® or Altoprev®)
  • Pravastatin (Pravachol®)
  • Rosuvastatin (Crestor®)
  • Simvastatin (Zocor®)
  • Pitavastatin (Livalo®)

If you or a loved one is taking a statin drug, here's what we recommend: 

  • Keep taking your statin medication.
  • Continue getting your flu vaccine this and every year. 
  • If you're 65 or older, you can increase your protection against the flu by getting the high-dose flu vaccine. 

The study examined a large practice involving nearly 450,000 adults 45 years and older, both male and female. It reviewed several seasons from 2002 to 2011 and examined medically acute respiratory illness, rather than proven flu disease. Statins appeared to reduce the effectiveness in preventing the flu by half. 

The authors noted that statins are anti-inflammatory, and for that reason, may dampen the vaccine's effect. If this is true, it may be true for other vaccines as well. 

The study was well done, but it is only one study. The authors wrote that more data is needed to address how we should treat patients who take statins and how the flu vaccine should be administered to them. Right now, they're not recommending any changes. 

If you have more questions, please talk with your Care Team. 

Dr. Robert M. Jacobson is a primary care pediatrician in Employee and Community Health's (ECH) Division of Community Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine and is the medical director of the ECH and Southeast Minnesota Region Immunization Program.