No Increased Risk in Providing Flu Vaccine to Surgical Patients

PASADENA, Calif. Surgical patients who received the flu vaccine during their hospital stay did not have an increased risk of emergency department visits or subsequent hospitalizations in the week following discharge, compared with surgical patients who did not receive the vaccine. The new study from Kaiser Permanente, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, also found that compared with unvaccinated surgical patients, vaccinated surgical patients did not have an increased risk of fever nor did they have an increased number of laboratory tests checking for infection.

Historically, there has been concern among surgeons that vaccinating patients while they are in the hospital can contribute to increased risk of vaccine-related fever or muscle pain, which might be incorrectly attributed to surgical complications, explained Sara Y. Tartof, PhD, MPH, study lead author, Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation. There has been no data to support that concern. In fact, our study findings show hospital stays are a fine time to vaccinate patients, particularly those who are older and at high risk of complications due to the flu.

The flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that can cause serious complications, hospitalizations and, in some cases, even death. Some people, such as older adults, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious complications. In addition to recommending annual flu vaccination for people 6 months of age and older, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that hospitalized patients who are eligible receive the flu vaccine before discharge.

In this study, researchers analyzed the health records of Kaiser Permanente members in Southern California who were eligible for flu vaccination in the 2010 through 2013 flu seasons. Those seasons were defined as starting Sept. 1 and ending March 31. Of the 42,777 surgeries included in the analysis, 27,590 of the patients were not vaccinated while 6,420 patients received vaccinations during their hospital stay. The remaining patients were vaccinated either before hospital admission or after discharge from the hospital. In addition, researchers found that more than one-third of patients (34 percent) remained unvaccinated during the flu season. 

The study was funded through the Vaccine Safety Datalink from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Other authors of the study include Lei Qian, PhD, Lina S. Sy, MPH, Hung Fu Tseng, PhD, Rulin C. Hechter, MD, PhD, and Steven J. Jacobsen, MD, PhD, of the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation; and Gunter K. Rieg, MD, and Kalvin C. Yu, MD, with the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. 

About the Kaiser Permanente Southern California Department of Research & Evaluation

The Department of Research & Evaluation conducts high-quality, innovative research into disease etiology, prevention, treatment and care delivery. Investigators conduct epidemiologic research, health services research, biostatistics research, and behavioral research as well as clinical trials. Major areas of study include chronic disease, infectious disease, cancer, drug safety and effectiveness, and maternal and child health. Headquartered in Pasadena, California, the department focuses on translating research to practice quickly to benefit the health and lives of Kaiser Permanente Southern California members and the general public. Visit

About Kaiser Permanente

Kaiser Permanente is committed to helping shape the future of health care. We are recognized as one of America’s leading health care providers and not-for-profit health plans. Founded in 1945, Kaiser Permanente has a mission to provide high-quality, affordable health care services and to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. We currently serve more than 10 million members in eight states and the District of Columbia. Care for members and patients is focused on their total health and guided by their personal physicians, specialists and team of caregivers. Our expert and caring medical teams are empowered and supported by industry-leading technology advances and tools for health promotion, disease prevention, state-of-the-art care delivery and world-class chronic disease management. Kaiser Permanente is dedicated to care innovations, clinical research, health education and the support of community health. For more information, go to: