The flu, a different coronavirus, will be back this winter, as usual, starting in November and getting worse December and January. As the early symptoms of COVID-19 (also a coronavirus) and the flu are very similar, the medical establishment recommends that everyone gets a flu shot.
“This winter, hospitals could well be in great demand so it makes sense that if we can minimize influenza as much as we can we’ll have more reserved healthcare capacity to look after patients who might be suffering from COVID-19,” said Dr. John Campbell.
Further, the flu shot, designed to give you immunity against the flu, may give you increased immunity—although not total—against the worst cases of COVID-19.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health (NIH paper), “It might be possible also that individuals who received prior flu vaccination might show mild severity of COVID-19 because of flu-induced bystander effect of the generated immune responses, which itself might cross-react against SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19].”
According to The Dual Epidemics of COVID-19 and Influenza (the JAMA report), in the 2018-2019 flu session, the U.S. had 35.5 million influenza cases, 490,600 hospitalizations, and 34,200 deaths related to influenza.
As for the good news, the flu vaccination for 2018-19 prevented 4.4 million cases of influenza, 58,000 hospitalizations, and 3,500 deaths in the U.S. This is with only about 50% of residents getting the flu shot, according to the JAMA report.
Of course, COVID-19 is a different respiratory viral infection. Still, as to the flu, the relative risk in this study was 4.4. In other words, the people in the vaccination group were 4.4 times more likely to avoid the flu compared with people who did not take the flu shot.
So it is still very important that everyone gets a flu shot. Make sure that all your family members do so. That way even if you later get COVID-19, the hospital won’t be as full of influenza patients.