05/20/2010 - Articles

Pneumonia vaccine does not protect against heart attack, stroke

By: Susan Aldridge, medical journalist, PhD


If you are at risk of heart attack or stroke, your doctor may offer you a shot of pneumonia vaccine as a preventive measure. Previous research has suggested that pneumonia vaccine does indeed offer some protection against cardiovascular events. However, a new study from Kaiser Permanente scientists casts doubt on the health benefit of the pneumonia vaccine.

The researchers followed a group of over 84,000 men aged 45 to 69 years from the California Men’s Health Study and used electronic health records to analyze data on immunization status, lifestyle and demographic characteristics, and health (including, of course, incidence of heart attack and stroke). During the five year follow up, there were 1211 first heart attacks in the 112,837 person-years men who had been vaccinated and 1494 first heart attacks in the 246,170 person-years of men who were not vaccinated. Using person years is a way of working out how common heart attacks or stroke were in the two groups, vaccinated and not vaccinated. The corresponding figures for stroke were 651 in the vaccinated group and 483 in the not vaccinated group. The researchers conclude from this that the pneumonia vaccine does not, in fact, offer protection from heart attack or stroke because there was no real difference in the incidence of cardiovascular events between the two groups. The strength of this study is that its analysis controlled for all the complicating factors that can influence the outcome of research of this nature. Therefore, do not rely on pneumonia vaccine to protect against heart attack or stroke. However, there is plenty of evidence that influenza vaccine does offer protection for those at risk of heart attack and stroke, so don’t miss out on your jab if your doctor thinks you should have it.




Tseng H et al Pneumococcal vaccination and risk of acute myocardial infarction and stroke in men Journal of the American Medical Association May 5 2010;303:1699-1706


Created on: 05/20/2010
Reviewed on: 05/20/2010

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