• The flu vaccine may reduce the risk of suffering severe COVID-19 infection, according to a new study.
• Patients vaccinated against the flu had less chance of suffering stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis.
• Researchers said it could help in breakthrough COVID-19 cases.
Getting your flu shot this year might come with an added bonus.
New research found that the flu vaccine may provide vital protection against COVID-19, reducing the risk of suffering severe infection, stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis.
The study, published in the medical journal PLOS ONE, analyzed medical records of more than 74,000 people in multiple counties, including the U.S., the United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, and others, who tested positive for the coronavirus. Patients who had COVID-19 and got their flu shot six months prior to infection were less likely to have health complications from COVID-19, and they were less likely to visit the emergency room or need intensive care.
The link between the flu shot and protective benefits against COVID-19 isn’t a first. One study earlier this year found that the influenza vaccine lowered the odds of testing positive for COVID-19, but the new study’s size gives more weight to the vaccination argument, whether for the flu or COVID-19.
“Only a small fraction of the world has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to date, and with all the devastation that has occurred due to the pandemic, the global community still needs to find solutions to reduce morbidity and mortality,” said Dr. Devinder Singh, co-author of the study and chief of plastic surgery and professor of clinical surgery at the Miller School of Medicine at the University of Miami.
How the flu vaccine prevents severe COVID-19 infection
In the international study, researchers broke subjects into those who had and hadn’t received a flu shot before their positive COVID-19 test. They then took into consideration factors that could influence their risk of getting severe COVID-19, such as age, gender, smoking habits, and various health problems.
In the first group, members received the flu vaccine two weeks and six months prior to being diagnosed with COVID-19; the second group was not vaccinated against the flu. Researchers found that patients who did not have the flu shot were up to 20% more likely to have been admitted to the intensive care unit, and up to 58% more likely to visit the emergency room.
Additionally, patients who hadn’t been vaccinated for the flu had a much greater chance of developing severe health complications including sepsis (45% more likely), stroke (up to 58% more likely), and deep vein thrombosis (up to 40% more likely).
As the country struggles to get people vaccinated against COVID-19, researchers said that people should receive both COVID and flu vaccines, particularly in areas where the COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply and in breakthrough cases in individuals already vaccinated.
“Continued promotion of the influenza vaccine also has the potential help the global population avoid a possible ‘twindemic’ — a simultaneous outbreak of both influenza and coronavirus,” Susan M. Taghioff, a study co-author and medical student, said in a press release.
The flu shot can be obtained at most pharmacies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine every season. They recommend that people get vaccinated for the flu by the end of October.