Annual flu shot may help against Covid-19, study suggests

Jul 14, 2021
A new study has found the annual flu shot may reduce severe effects of Covid-19. Source: Getty

People who are vaccinated against the flu may be partially protected against Covid-19, a major new study has found. An analysis of patient data from around the world strongly suggests the annual flu shot reduces the risk of stroke, sepsis and DVT in patients with Covid-19. The researchers also found patients with the virus who had been vaccinated against flu were less likely to visit the emergency department and be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) — meaning it could be a valuable weapon in the fight to halt the pandemic.

For the study, Susan Taghioff and colleagues from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, carried out a retrospective analysis of data on tens of thousands of patients from around the world. The researchers compared the electronic health records of 37,377 Covid patients from the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore who had received flu jabs with those from the same number of Covid patients who had not been vaccinated against the flu.

The two groups were closely matched for age, gender, ethnicity, smoking and health problems such as diabetes, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. The researchers analysed how often the patients suffered any of 15 potentially serious health effects ranging from DVT and joint pain to pneumonia and acute respiratory failure; in the four months following their Covid diagnosis.

The analysis revealed that those who had not had the flu jab were significantly more likely (up to 20 per cent more likely) to have been admitted to ICU. They were also significantly more likely to visit the Emergency Department (up to 58 per cent more likely), to develop sepsis (up to 45 per cent more likely), to have a stroke (up to 58 per cent more likely) and a DVT (up to 40 per cent more likely). However, the risk of death was not reduced. The new research is being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases.

“Having access to real-time data of millions of patients is a powerful research tool,” Taghioff said. “Together with asking important questions it has allowed my team to observe an association between the flu vaccine and lower morbidity in Covid-19 patients. This finding is particularly significant because the pandemic is straining resources in many parts of the world. Therefore, our research – if validated by prospective randomised clinical trials – has the potential to reduce the worldwide burden of disease.”

Taghioff went on to say the findings were even good news for those hesitant about receiving the Covid jab, however she made a point to note that it doesn’t replace it. “Despite this, the influenza vaccine is by no means a replacement for the Covid-19 vaccine and we advocate for everyone to receive their Covid-19 vaccine if able to,” she said.

“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. Regardless of the degree of protection afforded by the influenza vaccine against adverse outcomes associated with Covid-19, simply being able to conserve global healthcare resources by keeping the number of influenza cases under control is reason enough to champion continued efforts to promote influenza vaccination.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

Did you have the flu shot this year?

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