Flu jabs could ‘slash risk of severe Covid by 60%’, scientists discover

FLU jabs could slash the risk of developing severe Covid by 60 per cent, scientists have discovered.

It serves as another reason to get the vaccine in the autumn, when it’s feared flu and Covid could cause a double whammy of disease.

Researchers looked at the health records of almost 37,400 people who had caught Covid from the UK, US, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore.

Half of them, in the first group, had got the flu jab between two weeks and six months before a Covid diagnosis, while those in the second group had not been vaccinated against flu.

Those who had not had a flu jab were up to 20 per cent more likely to have been admitted to ICU with Covid.

They were also up to 58 per cent more likely to visit the Emergency Department, develop sepsis (45 per cent), have a stroke (58 per cent) and a DVT blood clot (40 per cent). 

However, deaths were not any higher, according to the research being presented at the virtual European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) this year.

The researchers believe the flu jab may boost people’s innate immune response – the first line of defence against bugs.

These general defences we are born with are not tailored to any particular illness like antibodies are.

But it serves as the first opportunity for the body to clear the virus before the more specific immune response, such as antibodies, kicks in.

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Double protection 

Ms Susan Taghioff, of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, who led the research, said people could get a flu jab if they are hesitant to get the Covid one.

"Despite this, the influenza vaccine is by no means a replacement for the Covid-19 vaccine and we advocate for everyone to receive their Covid-19 vaccine if able to”, Ms Taghioff said.

"Continued promotion of the influenza vaccine also has the potential to help the global population avoid a possible 'twindemic' – a simultaneous outbreak of both influenza and coronavirus.”

Scientists are concerned that the winter will see a wave of both flu and Covid-19 – they just don’t know how bad it will be.

Respiratory viruses circulate more in the colder months as everyone spends more time indoors.

It is feared this year will see a bad flu season because for the past two winters, they have been mild due to Covid restrictions.

The NHS is planning for a major double vaccination drive, where the most vulnerable people will get a flu and Covid vaccine at the same time.

This will be people’s third “booster” Covid shot.

The influenza vaccine has the potential to help avoid a possible 'twindemic'

The health service was told to plan for a rollout starting in September for around 32 million people including over-70s, health and care workers and elderly care home residents.

Officials have stressed that a third vaccine for Covid may not be needed, and a decision from ministers is set to be made in the coming weeks.

But scientific advisers to the Government, at the JCVI, have said they are “taking no chances” and want to give the NHS as much time as possible to plan.

Professor Adam Finn, from the JCVI, said experts were “very concerned” there will be a very large flu epidemic this winter.

He added people needed to be able to get their Covid and flu jabs in the same visit, if the Covid jab was deemed ultimately necessary.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, flu jabs could be used as a way of mitigating short supplies of Covid jabs, researchers say.

Although the UK has had a hugely successful vaccine campaign, many other countries are struggling to access jabs and are still battling ferocious outbreaks.

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.

"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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