Getting vaccinated against influenza will not increase the risk for contracting COVID-19 or the likelihood of severe illness and death from the disease, a new study has shown. Safety concerns should not be an impediment to encouraging flu vaccinations this fall, the researchers argue.

Investigators analyzed records from more than 13,000 patients tested for COVID-19 at the Cleveland Clinic between early March and mid-April 2020. They found no difference in COVID-19 incidence or severity among people who received un-adjuvanted influenza vaccines in the fall or winter of 2019 and those who did not receive the vaccine. This included the risk for hospitalization, admission to an intensive care unit, and death.

Due to the uncertainty of how flu season itself will affect COVID-19 susceptibility and incidence, the study team is advising that vaccinations should proceed as usual this fall.

“We have already seen the stress that COVID-19 can put on our hospitals and resources,” said lead researcher and pulmonologist Joe Zein, M.D. “[W]e strongly advise people to get their influenza vaccines, both for their individual health and the collective health of our care systems.”

Influenza at historically low levels 

Meanwhile, the percentage of respiratory specimens that test positive for influenza has fallen since mitigation measures such as social distancing went into effect.

That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which on Friday reported that positive test results dropped from more than 20% to 2.3%, and have remained at “historically low inter-seasonal levels.”

Data from Southern Hemisphere countries — whose seasons occur in reverse of Northern Hemisphere countries — also indicate low influenza activity, the agency said.