newsGP – Flu shot ‘helped workers avoid COVID-19’: Study


A new pre-printed article on health professionals in Qatar suggests that those who had received a flu shot had a much better chance of avoiding severe COVID-19.

Prior to the development of specific vaccines, there was a lot of interest in using existing vaccines against COVID.

New research released this month suggests that those who receive flu vaccinations are more likely to avoid illness — particularly severe illness — caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection.

The Qatar-based pre-print study, which picked up by Naturelooked at the health records of 30,774 health professionals in the country during the 2020 vaccination season before the availability of COVID-19 vaccines.

All those who took a PCR test during the study period were eligible for inclusion, with effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2 infection and serious or fatal disease being the primary criteria measured.

The findings, which are now published on medRxivindicate that those who were vaccinated had about 30% less symptomatic COVID-19 infection than those who were not, as well as a nearly 95% decrease in serious illness.

The authors say their study results were limited by the youth of the cohort, who had a mean age of about 36 years, with the rarity of severe disease also causing a wide confidence interval for the efficacy estimates.

Recognizing studies that support a link between flu vaccination and COVID-19 prevention and others that don’t, they argue that their work adds to evidence that the flu vaccine can enhance protection on a wider scale than just for that particular disease.

“The findings support benefits for flu vaccination that extend beyond protection against flu infection and serious illness,” they wrote.

The authors also said that by focusing on the response of health professionals, they would reduce the influence of a so-called ‘healthy user effect’, as they would be less likely to have large variations in health-related behavior compared to the broader population.

“These results for a population of health professionals where the influence of the healthy user effect may be minimized support the conclusion that recent flu vaccination has a true biological effect in protection against SARS-CoV-2 infection and the severity of COVID-19,” the study said. is reading.

For Professor Dale Godfrey, immunology theme leader at the Doherty Institute, the premise of a vaccine designed for one disease and protecting against another is familiar.

“The idea is not new,” he said newsGP† ‘There was a lot of interest in’ other vaccines that may offer some protection against COVID.’

He points to a study led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute in which the impact of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19 in the early months of the pandemic.

“There is evidence as far back as the 1970s that immunization with live attenuated vaccines provided a level of protection against the flu,” he said.

“There was evidence long before COVID that this phenomenon is occurring and it fits with what we understand.”

Professor Godfrey says that while specific vaccines target the adaptive immune system and will not protect against another virus that does not share the same molecule, the broader impact of the vaccine on the innate immune system may play a role.

“If your immune system has been boosted recently, you have a lot of innate cells and innate molecules that are activated and take a while for them to settle down again,” he said.

“And that’s probably what’s happening.

“It’s like monitoring the immune system, which is a very important part of any immune response. You just strengthen your defense a little bit against each pathogen.’

As to whether people should expect a flu vaccine to protect them from COVID-19, Professor Godfrey is unequivocal that a targeted vaccine is preferable.

“If they want to get a flu vaccine, they definitely should, because that’s the best protection against flu,” he said.

“If they’re doing it to get protection against COVID, then a COVID vaccine makes the most sense.

“A flu vaccine might add a bit to that, who knows, especially if it’s been a few months since their last COVID [vaccine] boost.’

The longevity of any protective boost is also not yet clear, says Professor Godfrey.

“It’s not really well understood about the durability of such protection and whether one vaccine is better than another,” he said.

“Most of the evidence I’ve heard has more to do with live attenuated vaccines, and the flu vaccine isn’t a live attenuated vaccine, it’s a subunit vaccine.

“There are still many questions.”

In the Nature article, infectious disease expert Professor Mihai Netea of ​​the Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands suggests that using an existing vaccine to protect against emerging diseases could be useful in the early stages of a future pandemic.

Professor Godfrey believes the massive shift in vaccine development dynamics caused by COVID-19 will likely limit the useful window of using an unrelated vaccine to protect people.

“With mRNA vaccines and simple protein vaccines, we’ve seen an incredibly rapid progress from having the sequence of a virus to getting a vaccine,” he said.

“The next time there is a pandemic, I would hope that it would happen in an even smoother, more streamlined way because of our experience with COVID.”

However, he doesn’t rule out the possibility entirely.

‘There would be a period of several months, where possible [the development of a vaccine] may not have happened yet.

“Any other way to boost our immunity would be an advantage.”

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