Influenza vaccine does not increase Covid-19 risk: Study

Receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person’s risk for contracting Covid-19 or worsen associated conditions or mortality, according to a study.

The research, published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science, shows the flu vaccine is the single most important intervention to help stay healthy.

Seasonal flu activity is unpredictable, and otherwise healthy people are hospitalised due to serious respiratory infection each year, the researchers said.

It is even more important to receive the flu vaccination this year to help prevent a ‘twindemic’ of flu and Covid-19, they said. Researchers led by Joe Zein, a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic in the US, analysed over 13,000 patients tested for Covid-19 between early March and mid-April.

They compared those who had received unadjuvanted influenza vaccines in the fall or winter of 2019 (4,138 patients) with those who did not receive the vaccine (9,082 patients).

The study found that influenza vaccination was not associated with increased Covid-19 incidence or disease severity, including risk for hospitalisation, admission to the intensive care unit or mortality. “Our findings suggest that we should proceed as usual with our vaccination strategy for global influenza this flu season,” said Zein. “Getting the annual flu vaccine remains the best safeguard against the influenza virus — both for yourself and the people around you,” he added.

The researchers noted that much is still unknown about the possible outcomes of concurrent SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes Covid-19 — and influenza infection, including disease pathology and burden to the healthcare system.

They believe that the population’s adherence to widespread and early flu vaccination while researchers continue to collect data will help to mitigate the risk of simultaneous viral infections and pandemics. “We have already seen the stress that Covid-19 can put on our hospitals and resources,” said Zein.

“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,” he said.

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