Flu jab may reduce severe effects of COVID-19 – including sepsis and strokes
Doctor explains how a flu shot can help prevent Aussie flu
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The flu shot is a seasonal vaccine that helps protect against three or four influenza viruses. Researchers speculate that the flu vaccine may boost the innate immune system, thereby protecting us against COVID-19.
The study, published in the journal Plot One, analysed electronic records of more than 74,000 who tested positive for COVID-19.
On their quest to examine the potential benefits of the influenza vaccine against COVID-19, researchers found that there was strong evidence the annual flu shot reduces the risks of stroke, sepsis, and deep vein thrombosis in patients with COVID-19.
Senior study author Devinder Singh, professor of clinic surgery at the Miller School, said: “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 mortality.
“Having access to the real-time data of millions of patient is an incredibly powerful research too.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.”
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The study, led in Singapore, drew on medical records of patients from the UK, US, Germany Italy, Israel and Singapore.
Using a research database, the team screened data of 74,7000 patients to identify two groups of 37,377 subjects.
Both groups were matched for factors that could influence their risk of susceptibility to severe COVID-19, including age, gender, diabetes and obesity among others.
Members of the first study group had received the flu vaccine two weeks and six months before contracting COVID-19.
Participants in the second had a positive diagnosis for COVID-19 but had not been vaccinated against the flu.
The incidence of adverse outcomes, including sepsis, strokes and deep vein thrombosis, within 30, 60 90 and 120 days of testing positive for COVID-19 were compared between the two groups.
The analysis revealed that those who had not had the flu shot were significantly more likely to end up in ICU.
Participants in this group were up to 58 percent more likely to visit an emergency department and have a stroke, 45 percent more likely to develop sepsis, and 49 percent more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis.
The study authors said the results strongly suggest the flu vaccine may protect against severe effects of COVID-19.
Researchers noted, however, that the risk of death was not reduced nor increased by the flu shot.
Although it remains unclear how the jab provides protection against COVID-19, study authors speculate that it may boost the innate immune system, thereby strengthening the body’s general defences that protect against various illnesses.
Co-author of the study, Susan Taghioff, noted: “Continued promotion of the influence vaccines also has the potential to help the global population avoid a possible ‘twindemic’; a simultaneous outbreak of both influence and coronavirus.
“Regardless of the degree of protection afforded by the influenza 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 influence vaccination worldwide.”
While more research is needed, the authors said: “Even patients who had already received COVID-19 vaccination may stand to benefit given that the COVID-19 does not convert complete immunity.”
Following interim advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, the NHS is preparing to offer all 16 and 17 year-olds in the UK a first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine within the next few weeks.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, England’s deputy chief medical officer, said there were plenty of vaccines available, adding: “We have the supply, and I’m expecting this to start in a very short number of weeks.”
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