New research suggests flu shot may reduce severity of coronavirus

Coronavirus

DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — It’s called the novel coronavirus for a reason — it’s so new and there is still so much to be learned about it, including what preventive measures we can be taking now to soften our symptoms if and when we get a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

A new study coming out of Florida might have one of the most interesting leads yet, and that is — a flu shot might be more powerful than you think it is.

“When we look at COVID and the COVID-19, up to this point there really haven’t been any good preventive measures about severity,” said Arch Mainous, a professor at the University of Florida Department of Community Health and Family Medicine.

While the world may not yet have access to a COVID-19 vaccine, researchers at the University of Florida Health believe Americans already have access to an injection that alleviates COVID-19 intensity — the flu shot.

“The fact that the effect was still so strong was probably the most surprising element of this,” said Dr. Ming-Jim Yang.

Dr. Ming-Jim Yang and Dr. Nick Dorsey are on the team that conducted this study. They looked at 2,000 Floridians who had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“And we wanted to see if those people that had COVID, if they’d had a flu shot,” said Dr. Nick Dorsey, assistant professor at University of Florida Health. “And those that didn’t have the flu shot were twice as likely to be admitted to the hospital and over three times as likely to be admitted to the ICU.”

According to the CDC, about 52% of Americans were vaccinated last flu season — a percentage that has continued to grow the past two years. With COVID-19, we’re likely to see that number rise even more. Both doctors underscoring that even if you’ve been vaccinated, masks and social distancing safeguards remain necessary.

“I think one thing we have to emphasize is that it’s not going to keep you from getting COVID-19,” said Yang.

Jimmy Cazin is one of those COVID-19 patients who now wishes he had gotten his flu shot last season.

“The difficult part of this whole experience is that we learn as we go,” said Cazin.

He fought COVID-19 for 10 days inside a central Texas hospital — simultaneously battling the thoughts telling him this could be the end.

“I might not make it,” said Cazin. “And literally I felt the point of utter weakness like there’s nothing I can do here.”

In the wake of this new study, Cazin was surprised to learn there might be a link. Other researchers on the University of Florida Health team call the flu vaccine a double win in 2020.

“We have a win that basically can keep people from getting influenza,” said Dr. Arch Mainous, University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions. “But we’ve got this second win, which is — it looks like it may have a benefit to keeping people with COVID-19 to end up from being hospitalized.”

Dr. Yang with this message to Americans: “Please, please, please get your flu shot. You’re going to be hard-pressed to find any clinician out there who would not recommend you getting the flu shot.”

In terms of where this study heads next, the doctors said they’d like to broaden their net to study more Americans outside their health care system. When NewsNation asked what their biggest question was in regards to COVID-19, they said they’re most curious to see what the long-term effects of the virus look like in COVID-19 patients.

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