TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15 – For the first time, the American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association (ADA), and the American Heart Association (AHA) have come together to raise an important alert about the dangers of influenza (flu) for people with chronic health conditions, including diabetes, heart disease and lung diseases such as asthma and COPD. With this year’s flu season just beginning, together three of the nation’s leading, non-profit health organizations are urging the 117 million adults living with chronic disease[1] to prioritize annual flu vaccination and calling on health care professionals to advocate for and support flu immunization within their practices.

In the wake of several flu seasons that had a particularly deadly impact on older adults, national public health officials have stepped up efforts to educate Americans on the impact of flu on chronic health conditions. During the 2018-2019 season, 93% of adults hospitalized for flu, reported at least one underlying medical condition that placed them at high-risk for complications.[2] Older patients may also face catastrophic disability and loss of independence due to the flu, crippling their ability to be active and permanently impacting their quality of life.[3] Annual flu vaccination has been shown to mitigate these risks in patients with chronic health conditions—reducing the chance of hospitalization by 37% and reducing the risk of admission to the intensive care unit by 82%.[4]

“Getting the flu can lead to complications with very serious consequences for people with cardiovascular disease, including hospitalization, increased risk for other major health events like heart attacks or strokes, and death,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention. “Flu vaccination is a good idea for all and has actually been associated with lower rates of some cardiac events.”

The flu vaccine is a protective tool against influenza and it is an essential health management step for people living with diabetes, heart disease and lung disease.

“People with diabetes experience more hyperglycemic events, and substantial increases in pneumonia, sepsis and coronary heart disease after being diagnosed with the flu,” said Louis H. Philipson, M.D., Ph.D., FACP, American Diabetes Association Vice President of Medicine & Science. “Additionally, if an individual does get the flu, being vaccinated may help make their symptoms milder and avoid more serious consequences.”

Yet, only 45% of adults were vaccinated in the 2018-2019 season.[5] Urgent action is needed to increase immunization rates and protect those at increased risk from serious health complications caused by the flu.

To that end, people living with lung or heart disease or diabetes should be immunized against the flu annually as part of their regular health care management. Just as medication, blood pressure monitoring for hypertension, blood glucose monitoring for diabetes and the use of inhalers for lung disease are key to maintain healthy lives, flu vaccination should be viewed as a routine component to prevent illness and keep chronic conditions in check.

In addition, health care providers can be crucial agents for change that can help save lives by strongly advocating for and supporting immunization in their practices. As one of the most trusted sources of medical information, a health care provider’s word is paramount to increasing vaccination rates. Therefore, we urge providers to help patients understand their risks and to issue strong recommendations for an annual flu vaccine to reduce the serious consequences of the flu, especially among people with existing chronic health conditions.

Make no mistake, complications from influenza can be lethal. The flu vaccine can reduce these risks significantly. By championing vaccination, we are working together to save lives and preserve quality of life and independence for the millions of Americans with chronic diseases.

“We are proud of our collaboration with the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association raising awareness around the importance of flu vaccination, especially for those with chronic conditions and more vulnerable to the impacts of the flu,” said Albert A. Rizzo, M.D., FACP, American Lung Association Chief Medical Officer. “Americans oftentimes live with one or more of these chronic medical conditions that span across our three organizations and working together we can encourage flu vaccinations and save lives.”

The American Lung Association, the American Diabetes Association and the American Heart Association offer educational resources about the burden of flu and increased need for vaccination among people with chronic health conditions. And throughout the flu season, the Lung Association, AHA and ADA will be sharing the personal stories of individuals affected by the flu, resources on how to find the closest flu vaccine provider and debunk myths surrounding the flu.

Free, downloadable information on flu and chronic health conditions is also available through the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Multimedia resources available on the right corner of the release link:

  • Video interview: Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., M.P.H., FAAFP, American Heart Association Chief Medical Officer for Prevention discusses the initiative and the importance of getting the flu shot.
  • Photos/general video illustrating cold/flu season.


About the American Lung Association

The American Lung Association is the leading organization working to save lives by improving lung health and preventing lung disease, through research, education and advocacy. The work of the American Lung Association is focused on four strategic imperatives: to defeat lung cancer; to improve the air we breathe; to reduce the burden of lung disease on individuals and their families; and to eliminate tobacco use and tobacco-related diseases. For more information about the American Lung Association, a holder of the coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator and a Gold-Level GuideStar Member, or to support the work it does, call 1-800-LUNGUSA (1-800-586-4872) or visit Lung.org.

About the American Diabetes Association

Every day more than 4,000 people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in America. Nearly 115 million Americans have diabetes or prediabetes and are striving to manage their lives while living with the disease. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) is the nation’s leading voluntary health organization fighting to bend the curve on the diabetes epidemic and help people living with diabetes thrive. For nearly 80 years the ADA has been driving discovery and research to treat, manage and prevent diabetes, while working relentlessly for a cure. We help people with diabetes thrive by fighting for their rights and developing programs, advocacy and education designed to improve their quality of life. Diabetes has brought us together. What we do next will make us Connected for Life. To learn more or to get involved, visit us at diabetes.org or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Information is available in English and Spanish. Join the fight with us on Facebook (American Diabetes Association), Twitter (@AmDiabetesAssn) and Instagram (@AmDiabetesAssn).

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. We are dedicated to ensuring equitable health in all communities. Through collaboration with numerous organizations, and powered by millions of volunteers, we fund innovative research, advocate for the public’s health and share lifesaving resources. The Dallas-based organization has been a leading source of health information for nearly a century. Connect with us on heart.orgFacebookTwitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.  

For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

[1] Ward BW, Schiller JS, Goodman RA. Multiple Chronic Conditions Among US Adults: A 2012 Update. Prev Chronic Dis 2014;11:130389. Accessed August 2, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3992293/

[2] CDC. Update: Influenza Activity in the United States During the 2018–19 Season and Composition of the 2019–20 Influenza Vaccine. https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/68/wr/mm6824a3.htm. Updated June 20, 2019. Accessed August 7, 2019. 

[3] Andrew MK, Macdonald S, Ye L, et al. Impact of Frailty on Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness and Clinical Outcomes: Experience from the Canadian Immunization Research Network (CIRN) Serious Outcomes

Surveillance (SOS) Network 2011/12 Season. Open Forum Infect Dis. 2016 Oct 24; 3(suppl_1):710.

[4] CDC. Study Shows Flu Vaccine Reduces Risk of Severe Illness. Updated August 1, 2018. Accessed August 21, 2019. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/spotlights/2017-2018/vaccine-reduces-risk-severe-illness.htm

[5] CDC. Flu Vaccination Coverage, United States, 2018–19 Influenza Season. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/fluvaxview/coverage-1819estimates.htm. Accessed September 26, 2019.