A new study by researchers in Michigan found a strange and somewhat inexplicable link between flu vaccination and reduced risk and severity of Covid-19 infection.
Scientists pored over the medical records of more than 27,000 patients who were tested for Covid-19 up to and including July 2020.
Of the 27,201 study participants, those who had received the flu vaccine in the previous year were less likely to test positive for the coronavirus than their flu vaccine-free counterparts, with 1,218, or 4.5%, giving positive, according to national averages.
After controlling for demographic variables such as ethnicity, race, gender, age, and underlying medical conditions, only 4% of those who received the flu vaccine tested positive for Covid-19, but that number increased by 4.9% of positive cases in the unvaccinated cohort.
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While the difference between the two groups may seem quite modest, it represents a 24% reduction in the odds of testing positive for coronavirus, which should not be sniffed out.
The reason for this statistically significant discrepancy remains a mystery, and it may not be due to any medical reason, but rather the result of more responsible lifestyle choices by the people involved, although this has yet to be definitively proven. .
“It is possible that the patients who receive the flu vaccine are also people who practice greater social distancing and follow CDC guidelines.” says cardiologist Marion Hofmann Bowman of the University of Michigan.
“However, it is also plausible that there could be a direct biological effect of the flu vaccine on the immune system relevant to fighting the SARS-CoV-2 virus.”
One possible explanation may be something called ‘trained immunity’, whereby patients who have previously been exposed to unrelated pathogens have a more ‘primed’ immune system that is ready and able to fight a new pathogen, with various degrees of success. The cross-reactivity of vaccines is an area of great interest, but it will take years of research before any definitive causal link can be proven.
Similar results have been shown in previous studies around the world, but within the Michigan cohort at least, Covid-19 patients who had received the flu vaccine in the previous year were less likely to require hospitalization and ventilation.
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