The flu shot may reduce the risk of coronavirus infection. Researchers at the Radboudumc in Nijmegen have found indirect evidence for this in two ways. They calculate that staff members of the university hospital who got vaccinated against the flu virus last year, contracted SARS-CoV-2 less often than colleagues who did not get the flu shot. In addition, they have shown with laboratory research that the flu vaccine in cells of healthy people improves the immune response.
That “trained immune response” can have beneficial side effects during this time. “In addition to protection against influenza, the vaccine could have beneficial effects against the new corona virus,” concludes professor of experimental medicine Mihai Netea.
The research has not yet received a so-called peer review from independent colleagues and has not yet been published in a scientific journal. Because the researchers consider their results important, they have already published them on the medical website MedRxiv.
The researchers calculate that of the 184 hospital employees who contracted the corona virus, 42 percent had taken the flu shot. Vaccination is advised in hospital care to protect patients. Of the – much larger – group of more than 10,000 healthcare workers who remained free of the corona virus, 54 percent had been vaccinated. The researchers calculate that in the non-vaccinated group 2.23 percent contracted corona and only 1.33 percent in the vaccinated group. That makes a difference of about 40 percent.
An important side note that the researchers themselves make is that more than three-quarters of the staff members who became infected had direct contact with patients. Of the employees who did not get the virus, only 42 percent had direct contact with patients. The study also says nothing about possible behavioral differences between people who do or do not get the flu shot. A spokesperson for the Radboudumc admits that the study mainly brought to light clues and that ‘no very firm conclusions’ can be drawn from it.
Run on flu shot
A run is now taking place on the flu shot. The National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) announced on Tuesday that demand threatens to exceed supply. State Secretary Paul Blokhuis (Public Health) has therefore called on healthy people in their sixties not to accept their invitation for the vaccination for the time being. People with medical conditions and those over 70 should be given priority because they are the most vulnerable to the effects of influenza.