Lab experiment suggests flu shots could help fight off coronavirus infections

Tim O'Donnell
·2 min read

Flu shots are already considered an important factor in combating the coronavirus pandemic, since widespread inoculations will hopefully help prevent medical facilities from becoming overwhelmed by dual diseases. But new research suggests flu shots may also play some role in preventing COVID-19 infections in the first place, The Scientific American reports.

A study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that workers at Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands who received a flu shot during the 2019-20 season were 39 percent less likely than their colleagues to test positive for the coronavirus as of June 1, 2020. Non-vaccinated employees contracted the virus at a 2.23 percent rate, compared to only 1.33 percent of those who were vaccinated.

The preliminary research would certainly require further clinical trials — though the author of the study noted it would be unethical to compel a control group of subjects to be denied a flu shot — and there could be several reasons why the vaccinated group staved off infection more easily, including the possibility that they are generally more health conscious and took more COVID-19 precautions.

Still, there have been other studies that hint at a possible link between flu shots (and other vaccines, for that matter) and lower COVID-19 risk. Additionally, the Radboud research team conducted a laboratory experiment in which they took blood cells from healthy individuals, purified them, and exposed some of them to a flu vaccine. After allowing the cells to grow for a few days, the researchers exposed them to the coronavirus. A day later they found that the vaccinated cells produced more of several kinds of immune molecules that fight off pathogens than those that were initially left alone. Read more at The Scientific American.

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