How getting your flu shot could reduce the likelihood of a COVID infection

Credit: Upper Michigan Source
Credit: Upper Michigan Source
[A] new study suggests that there could be another key reason to get a flu jab this year: it might reduce your risk of COVID-19. The research, released as a preprint that has not yet been peer-reviewed, indicates that a flu vaccine against the influenza virus may also trigger the body to produce broad infection-fighting molecules that combat the pandemic-causing coronavirus.

The paper is in line with some other recent studies published in peer-reviewed journals that point to similar effects. But researchers caution the research is preliminary and needs to be bolstered by more rigorous experiments.

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It might seem far-fetched that a vaccine designed to protect against one infection could protect against others, too. But a growing body of research suggests that this does, in fact, occur through a process called “trained innate immunity.” Vaccines are known to work by stimulating the adaptive immune system, causing the body to make antibodies that can recognize and attack a specific pathogen if it is encountered again. But recent studies suggest that some vaccines also train the body’s faster-acting and less specific innate immune system, improving its ability to fight off many kinds of infections. Vaccines appear to achieve this feat by reprogramming stem cells that give rise to cells involved in this early innate immune response.

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