Health & Fitness

Flu vaccine can tame Covid sting

covid

Coronavirus COVID-19 infection 3D medical illustration. Floating pathogen respiratory influenza covid corona virus cell. PHOTO | POOL

Summary

  • For high-risk individuals, flu vaccines are recommended to help cushion them from the adverse effects of the condition.
  • Health experts note that the vaccines could have additional benefits amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Research findings presented at the 2021 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) indicates that the flu vaccine may provide vital protection against the severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

A majority of Kenyans have been grappling with the cold season for some months now. Aside from the decreasing temperatures that make life uncomfortable, this is usually a period when flu episodes become common.

Major symptoms of the condition include dry coughs, fevers, headaches, fatigue (tiredness), runny nose, sore throats and muscle or body aches.

These symptoms are unlike the ones for common colds that are usually milder and do not result in serious health problems.

To help ‘whither’ the condition, patients are often given medicines that alleviate or lessen the pain and discomfort that come with the flu symptoms. Examples include painkillers for the body aches, antihistamines that help address the runny nose or sneezing problems and nasal decongestants which assist with nose blockage challenges.

Most people usually recover from fever and other symptoms of the flu within a week without requiring medical attention.

However, the flu can cause severe illness or death among high risk groups such as children below five years, pregnant women, older people (above 65) and individuals with underlying medical conditions like asthma, heart ailments, diabetes and lung disease.

For these high-risk individuals, flu vaccines are recommended to help cushion them from the adverse effects of the condition.

Aside from these benefits, health experts note that the vaccines could have additional benefits amidst the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

Research findings presented at the 2021 European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) indicates that the flu vaccine may provide vital protection against the severe symptoms of the coronavirus disease.

The research results strongly suggest that the annual flu shot reduces the risk of strokes, sepsis (blood poisoning) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clots among patients with Covid-19.

In addition, the study found that patients with the Coronavirus disease who had been vaccinated against the flu were also less likely to visit the emergency department and be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU).

Health experts therefore note that the flu vaccines can come in handy for many countries such as Kenya, which are still struggling to access sufficient Covid-19 vaccines for its citizens so as to vaccinate a huge proportion of the population.

"This finding is particularly significant because the pandemic is straining resources in many parts of the world. 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,” said Dr Devinder Singh, the study's senior author from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Susan Taghioff - another author of the study from the same institution – noted that the continued promotion of the flu vaccine has the potential of helping the global population to avoid a possible 'twin pandemic’ that will lead to a simultaneous outbreak of both the flu and Coronavirus disease cases.

She further stated that the flu vaccine may even benefit individuals hesitant to receive the Covid-19 vaccine due to the newness of the technology.

Nevertheless, Taghioff cautioned that the flu vaccine is by no means a replacement for the Coronavirus disease vaccine.

“And so, we advocate for everyone to receive their Covid-19 vaccine if they are able to do so.”

During the study, which is believed to be the largest of its kind, the research team analysed medical records of Covid-19 patients who were divided into two groups of 37,377 patients.

The selected individuals were from diverse countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Israel and Singapore.

Members of the first group had received the flu vaccine between two weeks and six months before being diagnosed with the Coronavirus disease. But those in the second group had not been vaccinated against the flu.

According to the results of the study, Covid-19 patients who had not received the flu jab were significantly more likely (by 20 percent) to have been admitted to the ICU.

Moreover, they were significantly more likely to visit the emergency department or have strokes by 58 percent. These patients were also highly likely to develop sepsis (blood poisoning) and get deep vein thrombosis (blood clots) by 45 percent and 40 percent respectively.

Based on the study, it is not exactly known how the flu jab provides protection against Covid-19. However, most theories centre around its ability to boost the body’s innate immune system.

Consequently, the researchers note that more research is needed to prove and better understand the possible link.

“In the future, the flu shot could be used to help provide increased protection in countries where the COVID-19 vaccine is in short supply,” they conclude.