Study: Flu shot offers protection against COVID-19

The flu shot was shown to reduce the number of patients with COVID-19 who required treatment from an emergency department or the intensive care unit.

The flu vaccine seems to offer some protection in the fight against COVID-19.

According to a news release, a study performed by researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine looked at the records of 74,754 patients and found that the annual flu shot reduced the risk of stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis in patients diagnosed with COVID-19. These patients were also significantly less likely to visit the emergency department and being admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

It’s worth noting that the risk of death was not reduced by the flu shot, the release says.

“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,” senior study author Devinder Singh, MD, chief of plastic surgery and professor of clinical surgery at the Miller School, says in the release. “Having access to the real-time data of millions of patients is an incredibly powerful research tool. Together with asking important questions, my team has been able to observe an association between the flu vaccine and reduced morbidity in COVID-19 patients.”

Specifically, the analysis found that those COVID-19 patients who had not received the flu shot were up to 20 percent more likely to have been admitted to the ICU and up to 58 percent more likely to visit the emergency department. These patients were also more up to 45 percent more likely to develop sepsis, up to 58 percent more likely to have a stroke, and up to 40 percent more likely to have a deep vein thrombosis, the release says.

While the study suggests the flu vaccine may protect against severe effects of COVID-19, the authors strongly recommend people receive the COVID-19 vaccine as well as their annual influenza shot.

The authors also note that a prospective randomized control trial would be needed to better understand the protections, but the flu shot could be used in the future to provide some protection in regions where the COVID-19 vaccines are unavailable.

“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,” medical student Susan Taghioff, co-lead author of the study, says in the release. “Regardless of the degree of protection afforded by the influenza vaccine against adverse outcomes associated with COVID-19, simply being able to conserve global health care resources by keeping the number of influenza cases under control is reason enough to champion continued efforts to promote influenza vaccination worldwide.”

This is good news for many parts of the world which have struggled with access to the COVID-19 vaccines.

Last week, the World Health Organization called for a moratorium on wealthier nations giving COVID-19 booster shots to their citizens until at least 10 percent of the population of each country has been dosed.

“To make that happen, we need everyone’s cooperation, especially the handful of countries and companies that control the global supply of vaccines,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in an Aug. 4 briefing.