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Study clears flu vaccine use in asthma and COPD patients

Influenza vaccination does not increase the risk of acute exacerbations in patients with asthma and COPD, a major study of GP records has shown.

The study also found the vaccination visit gave GPs the opportunity to improve their management of patients with obstructive airways disease.

The researchers said uptake of flu immunisation in patients with chronic lung disease was low 'partly because of patient and physician concern that vaccination may induce acute exacerbations of asthma and COPD'. Their findings could help increase uptake by calming those fears.

The results were published in Thorax (October) as the Department of Health unveiled the findings of a

survey showing 52 per cent of patients over 65 believe having the vaccine can cause flu.

The study, based on the General Practice Research Database, covered 12,000 over-65s in 700 practices whose notes had evidence of asthma or COPD.

There was no increase in exacerbations or oral steroid prescriptions in the two weeks after vaccination.

But oral steroid prescription rates were four times higher for asthma patients and three-times higher for COPD patients on the day of vaccination than in the following two weeks.

Recorded diagnoses were also much higher on the day of immunisation ­ 12-fold for asthma and seven-fold for COPD.

Study leader Dr Richard Hubbard, senior lecturer in clinical epidemiology at the University of Nottingham, said: 'Attending for vaccination provides an opportunity for GPs to record the

diagnosis and prescribe corticosteroids which may be kept at home in anticipation of possible acute exacerbations later in the season.'

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