An ineffective flu jab caused the deaths of 4,000 people from heart attacks and strokes in England and Wales last winter, analysis shows.
The British Heart Foundation says the vaccination was unable to cope with a particularly devastating strain of flu.
Christopher Allen, the BHF’s senior cardiac nurse, said: “Last winter took a grim toll on people with heart and circulatory diseases.
“It shows just how important high uptake of an effective flu jab is.”
The 2017-18 vaccine was estimated to be just 15% effective, compared with 40% the previous year.
It resulted in the large extra winter death toll compared to previous years.
From December 2017 to March 2018, there were 650 excess heart-related deaths per week, 11,500 in total, 55% higher than the 7,510 the previous year.
Flu weakens the respiratory system the heart relies on and people who have had a heart attack are at greater risk of another if they get the virus.
Mr Allen said: “We know flu vaccines can reduce the risk of cardiovascular death in people with coronary heart disease by around a quarter.
“It is absolutely vital that people living with these conditions protect themselves.”
The effectiveness of the flu vaccine varies each year as the virus mutates.
Figures earlier this month showed there were an estimated 50,100 extra winter deaths last year, the highest in more than 40 years.
Cold weather also puts extra strain on the heart.
Mr Allen said: “Keeping your home no lower than 18C and eating and drinking plenty of hot meals and drinks can make all the difference.”
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