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Can a Flu Vaccine This Fall Also Help Fight Serious COVID, Other Illness?

July 12, 2021

Note to self: Don’t forget to get a flu shot this fall. Turns out the flu vaccine also might prevent some of the worst effects of COVID-19 and reduce the likelihood of emergency care, according to an analysis of almost 75,000 COVID-19 patient health records by researchers at the University of Miami.

The COVID-19 patients who had not received a flu shot were 45 percent to 58 percent more likely to have a stroke, about 40 percent more like to develop deep vein thrombosis and 36 percent to 45 percent more likely to have sepsis, according to the findings presented at an online meeting of the European society of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases.

Fewer COVID-19 patients who had received a flu shot were admitted to hospital emergency departments and intensive care units. It’s possible, the study’s authors noted, patients who had received a flu vaccine were in better health.

And previous research has demonstrated the flu vaccine can stimulate the body’s immune system. In this study, the University of Miami researchers compared the electronic health records of 37,377 COVID patients  from the United States, the United Kingdom and elsewhere around the world who had received a flu shot with the same number who hadn’t. The groups were matched from a database of more than 70 million patients for age, sex, ethnicity, health conditions such as diabetes and lung disease and diet, smoking and other lifestyle factors.

The researchers then checked the frequency of 15 potentially serious health conditions in the four months following each patient’s COVD diagnosis:

  • Sepsis.
  • Stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis or DVT.
  • Pulmonary embolism.
  • Heart attack.
  • Acute respiratory failure.
  • Acute respiratory distress syndrome.
  • Joint pain.
  • Renal failure.
  • Anorexia.
  • Pneumonia.

COVID lockdowns and safety precautions such as masks and social distancing resulted on all-time low numbers of flu cases during the 2020-21 season. Only 2,038 cases were reported nationwide from Sept. 27, 2020, to April 24, 2021, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC estimated more than 38 million flu cases during the 2019-20 flu season.

As fall approaches, with the highly transmissible Delta variant the most dominant strain in the U.S., make sure you’ve had a COVID vaccination. Then don’t forget to schedule your flu vaccine in October. If you want to avoid serious illness, two vaccines are better than one.