Flu vaccine protects against severe effects of COVID-10, says study


The flu vaccine is offered every year on the NHS to help protect people at risk of the winter illness and its complications. New research being presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID), held online this year, says it may also protect against COVID-19.

Patients with COVID-19 who had been vaccinated against flu were also found to be less likely to be hospitalised and admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

While the production and distribution of vaccines increases daily, some countries are not expected to vaccinate large numbers of their population until the start of 2023.

Previous, modestly-sized, studies have suggested the flu vaccine may provide protection against COVID-19, which means it could be a valuable weapon in the fight against the pandemic.

Susan Taghioff, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, USA, and colleagues carried out a retrospective analysis of data on tens of thousands of patients from around the world to find out more.

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The study, which is the largest of its kind, screened de-identified electronic health records held on the TriNeX research database of more than 70 million patients to identify two groups of 37,377 patients.

The two groups were matched for factors that could affect their risk of severe COVID-19, including age, gender, ethnicity, smoking and health problems such as diabetes, obesity and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Members of the first group had received the flu vaccine between two weeks and six months before being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Those in the second group also had COVID-19 but were not vaccinated against flu.


The study used patients from countries including the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore.

The study used patients from countries including the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore.

The incidence of 15 adverse outcomes within 120 days of testing positive for COVID-19 was then compared between the two groups.

Adverse outcomes included: sepsis; strokes; deep vein thrombosis or DVT; pulmonary embolism; acute respiratory failure; acute respiratory distress syndrome; arthralgia or joint pain; renal failure; anorexia; heart attack; pneumonia; emergency department visits; hospital admission; ICU admission; and death.

The study authors concluded their results strongly suggest the flu vaccine protects against several severe effects of COVID-19.

They add more research is needed to prove and better understand the possible link but, in the future, the flu jab could be used to help provide increased protection in countries where the COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply.

Dr Devinder Singh, the study’s senior author and a professor of plastic surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 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 morbidity and mortality.

“Having access to real-time data of millions of patients is a powerful research tool. Together with asking important questions it has allowed my team to observe an association between the flu vaccine and lower morbidity in COVID-19 patients.

“This finding is particularly significant because the pandemic is straining resources in many parts of the world. Therefore, our research – if validated by prospective randomised clinical trials – has the potential to reduce the worldwide burden of disease.”



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