Statins May Dampen Efficacy of Flu Vaccination

Saad Omer MBBS MPH PhD Associate Professor Emory Vaccine Center Associate Professor Global Health and Epidemiology Rollins School of Public Health Emory University

Dr. Saad Omer Interview with:
Saad Omer MBBS MPH PhD

Associate Professor Emory Vaccine Center
Associate Professor Global Health and Epidemiology
Rollins School of Public Health
Emory University

MedicalResearch: Can you give us a little background on this study?

Dr. Omer: My background is in global health, epidemiology and pediatrics and I have been fortunate to conduct field and clinical vaccine trials in a number of countries and with multiple infectious diseases including influenza, polio, measles and pneumococcal vaccines.

We were familiar with the data on investigating the potential effects of statins on other infections i.e. sepsis and community acquire pneumonia including

Dr. Vandermeer’s study in 2012 suggesting that “statin use may be associated with reduced mortality in patients hospitalized with influenza”.

Statins have lipid-lowering effects but they also exhibit anti-inflammatory and immunomodulatory properties. For lack of a better image, I think of statins as acting like a ‘big hammer made of Jell-O’: they have a broad, small dampening effect on immune response (as opposed to a narrow or deep effect).

MedicalResearch: What are the main findings?

Dr. Omer: . The difference in vaccine effectiveness between statin users and nonusers was small but significant especially during periods of widespread influenza circulation.

MedicalResearch: What should clinicians and patients take away from this report?

Dr. Omer: There are three main points:

  • While these findings are interesting, it is important to note that this was an observational report that needs to be replicated in a prospective study.
  • Our findings do not support an immediate change in recommendations regarding flu vaccinations,
  • The flu vaccine remains the single most important tool to prevent flu infections and complications.

MedicalResearch: What future research are you planning?

Dr. Omer: We are planning to confirm these findings with a prospective study of flu vaccine efficacy in patients on statins.

We would also like to test whether an alternate flu vaccine schedule or vaccine itself might increase vaccine efficacy, for example giving the high-dose flu vaccine to patients on statins. 


Saad B. Omer, Varun K. Phadke, Robert A. Bednarczyk, Allison T. Chamberlain, Jennifer L. Brosseau, and Walter A. Orenstein

Impact of Statins on Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Against Medically Attended Acute Respiratory Illness J Infect Dis. first published online October 28, 2015 doi:10.1093/infdis/jiv457


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Saad Omer MBBS MPH PhD (2015). Statins May Dampen Efficacy of Flu Vaccination