Flu vaccination could lessen impact of COVID-19 effects

Influenza vaccines may protect against some of the worst effects of COVID-19, a new study suggests.

Influenza vaccines may protect against some of the worst effects of COVID-19, a new study suggests.

A retrospective analysis of data from more than 37,000 COVID-19 patients worldwide suggests that annual flu shots reduced the risk of stroke, sepsis and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), according to a press release from the European Society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, where the findings were presented.

The study also found that COVID-19 patients who had received a flu vaccination were less likely to be admitted to emergency departments or ICUs than those who had not.

Researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine divided patients in the study into two groups. One group had received a flu shot between two weeks and six months before being diagnosed with COVID-19, while the second group had not received a flu vaccination.

The two groups were matched for factors that could affect their risk of severe COVID-19, including age, gender, smoking, diabetes, and obesity, among others. The analysis found that those in the non-vaccinated group were up to 20% more likely to have been admitted to an ICU, up to 58% more likely to visit an emergency department or experience a stroke, and 40% more likely to have a DVT than were the vaccinated group. However, there was no difference in the risk of death between the two groups.

The fact that flu vaccines could protect against many of COVID-19’s worst outcomes “is particularly significant because the pandemic is straining resources in many parts of the world,” Devinder Singh, MD, the study’s lead author, says in the press release. “Therefore our research—if validated by prospective randomized clinical trials—has the potential to reduce the worldwide burden of disease.”

“Influenza vaccination may even benefit individuals hesitant to receive a COVID-19 vaccination due to the newness of the technology,” said Susan Taghioff, a member of the research team, adding that “continued promotion of the influenza vaccine also has the potential to help the global population avoid a possible ‘twindemic’—a simultaneous outbreak of both influenza and coronavirus.” 

 Worldwide, there were about 187,000,000 cases of COVID-19 and 4,000,000 deaths from the disease as of July 12, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.