Coronavirus: How a flu shot can also protect you from infections

For many people, getting the annual flu shot is nothing but an irritating task – and almost a third of those who need it don't care.

This year, however, there are more reasons than ever to get the flu vaccine – according to the latest research, it could also provide important protection against Covid-19.

A new, large study is being started to investigate whether the widely used BCG vaccine against TB can also help protect healthcare workers from coronaviruses.

But just as experts called the flu vaccination results “good news”, worrying rifts have emerged in this year's flu vaccination campaign that could mean delays for some in need of the sting and possibly no NHS sting at all for others.

The concern is that many more lives will be lost when people contract flu and coronavirus together. A study by Public Health England found that the risk of death doubled in this case (file photo)

This year's vaccination schedule is the largest that has ever been carried out. General practitioners and pharmacies are trying to vaccinate nearly 30 million people against the flu in England over the next two months to keep the healthcare system from collapsing under the joint burden of a flu outbreak and Covid-19.

The concern is that many more lives will be lost when people contract flu and coronavirus together. A study by Public Health England showed that the risk of death doubled in this case.

This year, the NHS flu vaccination system expanded beyond the usual risk groups – including those over 65, young children, and those with a serious chronic illness such as asthma or heart failure – and anyone between the ages of 50 and 50 including anyone aged 64 who is protects against Covid-19, as well as the people he lives with and children aged 11 to 12 who are in their first year of secondary school.

It's not just that flu vaccination could prevent double infection harm, however: groundbreaking research suggests flu vaccines may also stimulate the immune system to attack and destroy the invading coronavirus, reducing deaths from Covid by more than a third will.

General practitioners and pharmacies are trying to vaccinate nearly 30 million people in England against the flu over the next two months to keep the healthcare system from collapsing under the joint burden of a flu outbreak and Covid-19 (file photo)

General practitioners and pharmacies are trying to vaccinate nearly 30 million people in England against the flu over the next two months to keep the healthcare system from collapsing under the joint burden of a flu outbreak and Covid-19 (file photo)

Two key studies – in Italy and Brazil, which examined more than 100,000 patients – found that routine flu vaccination reduced hospital admissions for Covid-19 and the need for intensive care among those infected.

The researchers at the University of Milan in Italy and the University of Sao Paulo in Brazil said the evidence is so compelling that all governments should run flu vaccination campaigns as one of the best ways to protect the population from coronavirus.

"This is great news and means the UK's flu vaccination campaign is even more important," said Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London. “These results from studies with large numbers of people are really important.

“That means that the flu shot is now also a weapon in terms of coronavirus prevention. This is possibly one of the few effective measures we can take this winter. "

For the Italian study, published in the journal Vaccines, researchers looked at coronavirus rates in those over 65 to assess infection rates, hospitalizations, and deaths from the virus in areas with high flu vaccine intake and areas where few People got the trick of comparing.

Did you know already?

Influenza vaccines given between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. produce four times as many antibodies as those given between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. This was the result of a study by the University of Birmingham in 2018.

It is believed that the immune system reacts faster earlier in the day when levels of a key protein begin to rise.

The results showed that in areas where fewer than 30 percent of eligible patients were immunized against flu, the death rate from Covid-19 was around 100,000 per 100,000 residents.

In regions where uptake reached 70 percent (the UK rate), deaths did not exceed ten per 100,000 population.

The Brazilian study tracked more than 90,000 Covid patients and found that the death rate in patients who received the flu shot was up to 35 percent lower than in those who did not.

Both teams concluded that the most likely explanation is that flu vaccines somehow invigorate the immune system enough to at least slow the advance of the coronavirus.

Most of the 100 or so Covid-19 vaccines currently being developed are made either with traces of the "spike" protein found on the surface of the virus or with fragments of its genetic material.

The idea is for the immune system to recognize the viral material in the vaccines as foreign and create infection-fighting cells (known as antibodies and T cells) to fight Covid-19. Such vaccines should work against Covid-19 and nothing else.

However, earlier this year, Good Health reported how scientists examined evidence that vaccines unrelated to coronavirus also appeared to lower the rate of infection and death.

Two in particular – the MMR (mumps, measles, rubella) shock and the BCG vaccine – caused a stir among scientists. They are made with "live" but weakened versions of the virus or bacteria they target.

This "living" element seems to put the entire immune system on alert. Scientists liken it to an army where all the guards are on duty with average shots, rather than a few skilled snipers.

However, what is puzzling about the latest evidence is that the flu vaccines used in Italy and Brazil do not contain any living material.

"The vaccines appear to train the immune system to respond to coronavirus rather than developing new antibodies or T cells to fight infections – a vaccine against a specific pathogen usually works," says Professor Openshaw.

Dr. Rupert Payne, Consultant Lecturer in Primary Health Care at Bristol University, adds, "Perhaps the flu shot somehow boosts the immune system's ability to clear the virus or diminishes the excessive immune response we see in patients in need of critical care."

Professor Openshaw says it's even more important now that every 30 million or so people who have promised a vaccine against the NHS get one. But will the government keep this promise?

Some GPs are already saying that pre-ordered deliveries did not arrive in time for planned vaccination clinics.

A frustrated Devon GP tweeted last week, “My practice hasn't received enough supplies to vaccinate myself or other frontline doctors. The whole thing is a mess. "

Meanwhile, pharmacy chains like Boots and LloydsPharmacy temporarily suspended bookings for free and paid shocks last month when stocks needed to be replenished, as they immunized ten times as many customers as last year.

Screen time

How what you see affects your health. This Week: Action Movies Make Us Eat More

When you're watching a fast-paced movie, people eat twice as many snacks as those who watch a talk show. According to a 2014 study from Cornell University in the United States, the difference was due to increased absorption in the plot, the researchers said.

But scary movie lovers can relax a little more about their snacks. Another study published in 2012 found that movies that make you jump cause a release of adrenaline that speeds up your heart rate, blood flow, and metabolism – meaning you burn more calories.

The University of Westminster team found that people who watched Jaws burned 161 calories during the film, while those who watched the horror classic The Shining burned 184.

Dr. Meg Arroll, a London-based psychologist, isn't surprised at the increase in snacks when watching action movies.

"We can easily absorb calories by mindlessly nibbling in front of the television," she told Good Health. “To break the habit, set yourself boundaries – for example, only have a snack when an ad is on.

"It can also be helpful to have boxes or wrappers in view as a visual reminder of what you've consumed."

Under the new, expanded NHS program, nearly half of England's total population is slated to receive the flu vaccine this year.

Ministers say that priority will be given to the most vulnerable, while the “over 50 but healthy” group is at the bottom of the queue.

Some general practitioners have contacted patients in this category and warned that they cannot be vaccinated until late November at the earliest. This means that patients may not receive their vaccine until a few weeks before the peak of the flu infection in January.

It takes at least two weeks after vaccination for the immune system to produce the antibodies it needs to protect against flu.

A recent text message to a patient from a general practitioner office seen by Good Health warns that vaccines will only be available to healthy 50- to 64-year-olds if enough supplies are available nationwide once all at-risk patients are vaccinated & # 39 ;.

Two weeks ago, GP magazine Pulse published a performance document from NHS England stating that free vaccines could be offered to this age group if circumstances permit.

Dr. George Kassianos, the national vaccination director for the Royal College of GPs, said the demand for a free flu shot this year was "huge".

"But general practitioners who ordered their vaccines back in February based those orders on how much vaccine they needed in previous years when intake was much lower."

The Ministry of Health said there is no question that high-risk patients will be denied the sting.

A spokesman said: “There is no national shortage of flu vaccines with enough doses to vaccinate 30 million people in England. It is completely wrong to suggest otherwise. "

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