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Getting a flu jab slashes the risk of being hospitalised with Covid by up to 60%, study finds

Getting a flu vaccine slashes the risk of falling severely ill with Covid, a study has suggested.

An analysis of nearly 75,000 coronavirus patients found those who received an annual influenza jab were 60 per cent less likely to end up in A&E compared to people not vaccinated against flu.

People given the flu shot between two weeks and six months before catching Covid also appear to be protected against nasty complications linked to the virus.

They were up to 60 per cent less likely to suffer a stroke, sepsis or blood clots compared to unvaccinated patients.

The study authors say their findings suggest the flu shot could provide increased protection to people in countries where Covid vaccine supplies are limited.

However, the study which used patient data from the US, UK and other countries, did not find having a flu vaccine reduced patients’ chance of dying from Covid.

The study authors, from the University of Miami, said it was not clear why having a flu jab offers some protection from Covid.

But they pointed to previous research which showed vaccines can boost the body’s innate immune system, improving its overall defences against disease.

The study comes as the UK government considers offering Covid vaccine boosters alongside a winter flu vaccine programme from September onwards and making flu vaccination a condition of deployment for NHS staff.

No10 has already made Covid jabs mandatory in care homes to protect elderly and frail residents who are most at risk of getting severely ill with the virus.

Getting a flu vaccine slashes the risk of falling severely ill with Covid. Researchers believe the jab boosts the body’s innate immune system, improving its overall defences against disease (stock image)

 

The Miami researchers analysed medical records of 74,754 Covid patients, splitting them into two groups of 37,377.

These groups were closely mirrored to each other to account for factors that could affect their risk of severe Covid symptoms, such as age, gender, ethnicity, smoking status.

They also looked at health problems such as diabetes, obesity and lung conditions that cause breathing difficulties to ensure these did not influence the study findings.

Fifteen adverse events, such as sepsis, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, were spotted in the group who tested positive for Covid. 

NO10 GEARS UP FOR AUTUMN COVID AND FLU VACCINE PROGRAMME

Number 10 plans for a potential September Covid vaccine booster program would see a third dose of the vaccine offered alongside a flu jab to the following priority group, known as Stage 1:

– All those 16 years and over who have a condition affecting their immune system and/or are considered clinically extremely vulnerable

– People who live in a residential care home for older adults

– All adults aged 70 years and older

– All frontline health and social care workers

This group would then be followed by a group known as Stage 2 which includes:

– All adults aged 50 years and older

– All those aged between 16 and 49 years of age who are in an influenza or COVID-19 risk group

– Adults who are a household contact of an immunosuppressed individual

This potential rollout, created by the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation at the request of the UK government, is not finalised and could be subject to changes in the coming months as more scientific data becomes available.

This includes data from clinical trials on immune responses following a third Covid vaccination.

They found that those who had been jabbed against flu were 58 per cent more likely to have a stroke, 45 per cent more likely to get sepsis, and 40 per cent more likely to be diagnosed with deep vein thrombosis.

Unvaccinated patients were also 58 per cent more likely to be sent to an emergency department for treatment and 20 per cent more likely to be admitted to an intensive-care-unit.

It’s unclear whether any of the participants had also been vaccinated against Covid, which would have significantly boosted their outcomes.

While stating more research needs to be done University of Miami Miller School of Medicine professor of plastic surgery and senior author in the study Devinder Singh said the results suggest that more easily obtainable flu vaccines could offer countries struggling to secure Covid vaccines a form of protection.

‘Only a small fraction of the world has been fully vaccinated against Covid 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,’ he said.

Susan Taghioff, another author on the study, added that even though flu vaccines may offer some protection from Covid they were no substitute for the protection offered by an actual Covid vaccine.

‘The influenza vaccine is by no means a replacement for the Covid vaccine and we advocate for everyone to receive their Covid vaccine if able to,’ she said.

The UK Government is mulling plans for a booster programme that could millions of vulnerable people and essential workers offered a third COVID-19 vaccine ahead of this winter,

Scientists on the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the government on vaccine policy, have published interim guidance on what a potential Covid booster programme could look like.

The proposal has come under fire from some scientists who have urged the UK government to instead start shipping Covid vaccines to poorer countries rather than rollout a third jab at home. 

Brits shouldn’t get their second Covid vaccines after just four weeks, SAGE expert warns

Britons should not get their second Covid vaccine after just four weeks, one of the Government’s top advisers claimed today.

Ministers are keen to halve the gap between doses — which currently stands at eight weeks — amid surging cases. 

But Professor Adam Finn, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) — which advises No10 on the roll-out, is against the move.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘I think we would need to be pretty careful about trying to change the approach right now in the middle of this third wave.’

Professor Finn warned giving second doses after just four weeks would likely offer people less protection against the disease in the future. 

Studies have shown jabs made by AstraZeneca and Pfizer actually perform slightly better when spaced out for longer than a month.

This is because the longer gap leads to a better priming of the immune system to fight off the virus. 

On the other hand, Professor Finn accepted that halving the gap to four weeks may ‘pay off’ if Britain’s third wave keeps spiralling. 

One of these is Sir Andrew Pollard, who was one of leading researchers being the Oxford University jab, urged Number 10 to shelve the plans and instead focus on helping other nations vaccinate their populations.

Less than 1 per cent of global vaccine supplies have gone to poorer nations so far and Sir Pollard has argued that there is not yet enough evidence to show a Covid booster program is necessary.

The JCVI advice warns that the 2021 to 2022 winter will be the first that both Covid and flu will be circulating together which could add to the winter pressures already faced annually by the NHS.

In the UK free flu vaccines are offered to clinical vulnerable people such as those with respiratory conditions or diabetes, those aged 65 years and over, and NHS workers and carers who could transmit the virus to the vulnerable.

Last year the government also offered free flu jabs to all adults over the age of 50 as part of efforts to reduce pressure on the NHS during the Covid pandemic.

However government data shows that less than half of patients aged between 50 and 65 years in England took up the offer of a vaccine, with only 45.2 per cent receiving the flu jab.

This compares to an 80.9 per cent vaccination rate for people aged over 65.

Several studies throughout the pandemic have shown that having natural immunity against the flu offers crossover protection against Covid.

Two studies one from Italy and one from Brazil which between them examined than 100,000 patients — found that routine flu vaccination cut Covid-19 hospital admissions and the need for intensive care among those infected.

The researchers behind the findings, at Milan University in Italy and Sao Paulo University in Brazil respectively, said the evidence was so compelling that all governments should pursue flu vaccine campaigns as one of the best ways to protect populations against Covid.

The Italian study showed that in areas where fewer than 30 per cent of eligible patients were immunised against flu, the mortality rate from Covid was around 150 for every 100,000 of the population.

But in regions where uptake hit 70 per cent deaths totalled no more than ten per 100,000 population.

The Brazil study tracked more than 90,000 Covid patients and found mortality rates were up to 35 per cent lower among those who received a flu jab compared to those who were unvaccinated.


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