October 31, 2020
Doctors often urge people to get their flu shots around this time of year, when the weather gets colder and respiratory viruses begin circulating more widely.
This year, there may be an additional reason to get a flu shot.
Getting a flu shot also may help reduce the risk of getting the coronavirus, according to preliminary research conducted by scientists from The Netherlands.
The study found that participants who got a flu shot during the 2019-2020 flu season were 39% less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than their coworkers by June 1.
The study, published Oct. 16 on the preprint forum medRxiv, has not yet been peer-reviewed. It included data from about 10,600 employees at the Radboud University Medical Center in The Netherlands.
Only 184 workers had tested positive for COVID-19 by June 1. About 2.23% of workers who didn't get a flu shot tested positive for the coronavirus. By comparison, only 1.33% of workers who did get a flu shot tested positive.
The study authors warned that their data doesn't guarantee people won't contract COVID-19 if they get a flu shot. However, a few other studies also have found a similar connection between COVID-19 and flu shots. That research also has shown that getting a flu shot decreases the likelihood of testing positive for the coronavirus.
Additional research has suggested that flu shots may boost the immune system overall. The concept, called trained innate immunity, is based on the idea that vaccines improve the body's ability to fight disease in general – not just for the illness that they are designed to guard against.
Typically, getting a flu shot reduces a person's influenza risk by 60%. New flu shots are created each year due to the changing nature of the virus.
Scientists are still working to develop a coronavirus vaccine. Several companies currently have candidates in late-stage clinical trials. They are being guided by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as they seek to identify a safe and effective vaccine as quickly as possible.