GAINESVILLE, Fla. — A flu shot might do more than protect against the flu virus, according to researchers at the University of Florida's School of Public Health.
In fact, they say it might also shield some people from a severe case of COVID-19 — even though the infection is caused by an entirely different virus.
People who received a flu vaccination in the year before testing positive for the novel coronavirus were nearly two-and-a-half times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, than those who were unvaccinated, an analysis of patient data by University of Florida Health researchers has found.
Those with a flu vaccination were more than three times less likely to be admitted to an intensive care unit. The effect could be the result of general priming of the immune system that boosts the body’s readiness to attack, no matter the invader, according to UF health doctors.
The researchers said more investigation is needed to confirm this association between getting a flu shot and fighting COVID-19.
They also said it is important to note the limitations of their work, including that it involved just one medical center. So, it’s unclear if results would also be seen in patients across the nation, doctors said.
Numbers were adjusted for age, ethnicity and comorbidities, such as diabetes, obesity and other chronic illnesses that can increase the severity of COVID-19.
“We think this gives people a huge incentive to get a vaccination," said Arch G. Mainous III, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and a professor in the department of health services research, management and policy at the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions. "It’s a double-win in many ways because the vaccination is, of course, helping protect you from influenza as well.”