A recent analysis suggests that people vaccinated against influenza may be partly protected against some of the severe effects of coronavirus and be less likely to need emergency care. Approximately 75,000 Covid-19 patients found significant reductions in stroke, deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and sepsis, and fewer admissions to emergency departments and intensive care units, among those who had been given the flu jab.
While it did not reduce Covid deaths in the study, previous research suggests the jab may provide some protection against coronavirus by boosting the innate immune system, the body's general defences that are not targeted against a particular pathogen. Senior author on the study and professor of clinical surgery at the University of Miami, Devinder Singh said, “We detected an association that appears to show flu vaccination offers some protection against severe Covid-19 disease.” He however added, “It is very important to emphasise that we absolutely recommend the Covid-19 vaccine, and in no way suggest the flu vaccine is a substitute to the proper Covid-19 vaccine.”
If the study findings are backed up by further research, they may be most valuable to countries that have lost in the global race for vaccines. Scientists compared the electronic health records of 37,377 Covid patients from the UK, the US and elsewhere, who had received flu jabs with those from the same number of Covid patients who had not been vaccinated against the flu.
They analysed how often the patients suffered any of 15 potentially serious health effects ranging from blood clots and heart attacks to kidney and respiratory failure in the four months following their Covid diagnosis.
Member of the government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group, Prof Peter Openshaw said, “It could be that the flu vaccine stimulates the immune system non-specifically and has that benefit, but you always wonder whether these associations are casual, or whether there's a common factor, like social deprivation which might explain why they go hand in hand. People who manage to get a flu vaccine may have better health in other ways. The best way to protect yourself from Covid is to get a Covid vaccine.”