As strange as it may sound, the flu shot may provide as much protection against coronavirus as it does against the flu.
That’s the surprising finding of a recent study that looked at health care workers who got the flu shot.
Over the last decade, the flu shot has been anywhere from 20% to 60% effective against the flu, depending on the year. Researchers in the Netherlands found that hospital employees who received this season’s influenza vaccine were 39% less likely to get infected with coronavirus than their colleagues who did not get the flu shot. 
It might seem odd that a vaccine designed to protect against one virus would work against another. But a growing body of research shows that it can through a process called “trained innate immunity.”
Vaccines typically work by stimulating the adaptive immune system. This is the part of the immune system that makes antibodies that target specific germs.
But recent studies have found that some vaccines also boost the innate immunity. This is the part of the immune system that is less specific. It can fight off many kinds of infections.
Dr. Ellen Foxman is an immunologist at Yale School of Medicine. “Trained immunity does exist and can offer broad protection, in unexpected ways, against other pathogens besides what the vaccine was designed against,” she said.
In a separate study, researchers in Italy also found that the flu vaccine is linked to coronavirus protection. They reported in the journal Vaccines that COVID-19 rates were lower in areas of the country where higher percentages of seniors got the flu shot.
Another study at the University of Florida found that people who got the flu shot were nearly to-and-a-half times less likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19.
And it may not just be the flu shot. Other vaccines may also provide some level of coronavirus immunity:
- Researchers at the Mayo Clinic found that adults who had received any of seven vaccines over the past five years were less likely to test positive for coronavirus. The shots included flu, polio, chicken-pox, MMR (measles-mumps-rubella), hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and pneumonia.
- A recent study in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology found that COVID patients who received the MMR vaccine got milder coronavirus symptoms. The researchers found that the higher a patient’s antibody level from the MMR vaccine, the lower their risk for severe COVID-19.
The study authors believe this may explain why children typically don’t get severe COVID-19 symptoms. Children have higher MMR antibody levels because they were more recently vaccinated.
- Several studies have also found that the tuberculosis vaccine is linked to lower coronavirus infection rates. 
The bottom line?
We’re not suggesting you get the flu shot to shield yourself from COVID-19. But if you do get it, it will give you some level of immunity against the flu, even if it’s small—and it might come with bonus protection against COVID-19.
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