Influenza vaccine does provide protection against influenza in most asthma patients taking inhaled steroids

The influenza vaccine protected asthma patients who use inhaled steroids against type A flu, although its protection against type B flu was significantly reduced in those taking high doses of inhaled steroids, said a researcher from Baylor College of Medicine in a recent publication.

“The findings of this study should reassure physicians and patients that influenza vaccine does provide protection against influenza in most asthma patients taking inhaled steroids,” said Dr. Nicola Hanania, BCM assistant professor of medicine and director of the Asthma Clinical Research Center. “We certainly don’t want asthmatics to avoid taking their influenza vaccine because of these study results.”

“It works for influenza type A, the most common type that circulates in Houston and the United States,” he said.

There are occasional outbreaks of influenza type B, and in the event this happens, people who use inhaled steroids to control their asthma may need to receive other medications in addition to the vaccine, he said.

Hanania was the lead researcher among the six centers belonging to the American Lung Association-Asthma Clinical Research Centers Network that participated in this study. The study looked at 294 asthma patients who were randomly assigned to receive either the flu vaccine or a placebo (an inactive medication). Seventy-five percent of patients who received the vaccine were on steroids while 70 percent of those received placebo were on steroids.

The immune response of patients on steroids at all doses who received the vaccine was higher than that seen in patients on steroids who received placebo, said Hanania. However, patients on high doses of inhaled steroids had a lower immune response to type B influenza. A previously published study performed by this network confirmed the safety of influenza vaccine in children and adults with asthma.

The report appeared in the April 2004 issue of the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. http://www.bcm.tmc.edu

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