Study finds no link between influenza vaccine and COVID-19 risk

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Receiving the influenza vaccine does not increase a person's risk for contracting the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) or worsen associated morbidity or mortality, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 13,000 patients tested for COVID-19 at the Cleveland Clinic between early March and mid-April of this year.

Comparing those who had received unadjuvanted influenza vaccines in the fall or winter of 2019 (4,138 patients) against those who did not received the vaccine (9,082 patients) revealed that influenza vaccination was not associated with increased COVID-19 incidence or disease severity, including risk for hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit or mortality.

Since 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, researchers and clinicians 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 epidemics or pandemics.

Seasonal flu activity is unpredictable, and otherwise healthy people are hospitalized due to serious respiratory infection each year. This year, it's even more important to receive the flu vaccination to help prevent a twindemic of flu and COVID-19, the researchers said.

"Our findings suggest that we should proceed as usual with our vaccination strategy for global influenza this flu season," said Joe Zein, MD, lead author of the study and a pulmonologist at Cleveland Clinic. "Getting the annual flu vaccine remains the best safeguard against the influenza virus, both for yourself and the people around you."

Editor's note: Click here for more information and ongoing COVID-19 updates for integrative healthcare professionals.