Hemodialysis patients who skipped the influenza vaccine were significantly more likely to be hospitalized than those who were vaccinated, according to  a three-year study of more than 150,000 kidney dialysis patients presented at the American Society of Nephrology’s 2016 Kidney Week.

The study tracked Fresenius Kidney Care patients who were vaccinated against the flu. The percentage of Fresenius Kidney Care patients who opted for yearly vaccination against the flu increased from 60% the first year of the study to 80% the third year.

“While almost everyone should be vaccinated against influenza, people with kidney failure who are on dialysis are at high risk for complications if they get sick, which is why it is vital they get the flu vaccine every year,” said Nien Chen Li, MPH, MS, MA, lead author of the study and biostatistician for Fresenius Medical Care. “We’re gratified to see that our patients are increasingly choosing to be vaccinated.”

Over a 30-year period, deaths from the flu ranged from 3,000 to 49,000 a year, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Fresenius Medical Care strongly encourages patients to receive flu vaccination and offers these vaccinations at its dialysis centers. In the study, researchers tracked flu vaccination and hospitalization rates among 158,326 patients in 2013-2014; 202,793 in 2014-2015; and 220,203 in 2015-2016. Patients who skipped vaccination were 53% more likely to be hospitalized during the flu season the first year, 87% more likely the second year and 158% more likely to be hospitalized the third year.

“The results of this research suggest that aggressive programs to promote flu vaccination makes a significant difference in keeping kidney patients healthy and out of the hospital,” said Dr. Frank Maddux, Fresenius Medical Care chief medical officer and executive vice president for clinical and scientific affairs. “We make it easy for patients by offering the flu vaccine at the clinic where they receive their care and explaining to them why the flu shot is important to their health. More and more patients are taking advantage of these crisis-preventing vaccinations.”