CLEVELAND — Receiving a flu shot this year isn’t going to raise your risk of contracting COVID-19, according to a new study from the Cleveland Clinic. Similarly, there is no evidence that the influenza vaccine leads to more serious COVID-19 symptoms or mortality rates. Moreover, the study’s authors say that getting vaccinated this flu season is the “single most important” way to stay healthy this fall & winter.
It’s a good idea to get a flu shot every year, researchers agree. However, the study’s authors say the influenza vaccination is extra important this year because it will prevent a possible “twindemic” of both COVID-19 and influenza.
For this research, data on over 13,000 patients was used. Each individual was tested for COVID-19 at the Cleveland Clinic between early March and mid-April 2020. Among that large population, patients who had been given unadjuvanted influenza vaccines in 2019 (4,138) were compared to those who had not received a vaccine during that period (9,082).
That investigation didn’t show any association whatsoever between getting a flu vaccine and increased COVID-19 susceptibility. Nor was there any sign of greater symptom severity in the event of an infection. More specifically, patients who had the flu shot in 2019 weren’t more likely to be hospitalized, admitted to the ICU, or pass away due to COVID-19.
Flu shot ‘remains best safeguard’ against virus
“Our findings suggest that we should proceed as usual with our vaccination strategy for global influenza this flu season,” says study leader Dr. Joe Zein, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic, in a release. “Getting the annual flu vaccine remains the best safeguard against the influenza virus — both for yourself and the people around you.”
At this point, no one is sure of the health repercussions that may come with a simultaneous COVID-19 and influenza infection. On an individual level, a dual infection like this could prove extremely detrimental to one’s health. Regarding entire populations and areas, mass dual infections could place extreme pressure on local health facilities. That said, the study’s authors say it’s imperative that people go out and receive the flu shot this year.
“We have already seen the stress that COVID-19 can put on our hospitals and resources,” Dr. Zein explains. “While we’re not yet sure how flu season will affect COVID-19 susceptibility and infections, we strongly advise people to get their influenza vaccines, both for their individual health and the collective health of our care systems.”
The study is published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.