Health Tips: The flu vaccine doesn’t raise your risk for COVID-19

“One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”: That could be the title of a short documentary on peculiar ideas floating around about the flu vaccine. (Psst! Did you hear the old one about the influenza vaccine actually causing the flu? Not a chance!) Well, now folks are worried that getting their flu shot may make them more vulnerable to catching COVID-19. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Research out of the Marshfield Clinic Research Institute indicates the flu vaccine does not raise your risk for other respiratory viruses. 

Also, interestingly, a 2019 study by the Cleveland Clinic of nearly 12,000 Americans found those who had the flu and pneumonia shot last year were less likely to test positive for COVID-19. Although it isn’t clear why there is this association, there may be a biological mechanism at play that makes the vaccine cross-protective in some way -- plus folks who get those vaccines may be more careful about their overall health and anti-COVID habits.

In any case, it’s not too late to get your flu shot -- and it’s recommended for everyone 6 months or older. It’s free for most of you and takes about two weeks for the antibodies to reach a protective level in your body.

Bonus: Although the flu vaccine does not protect against COVID-19, the steps you’re taking right now to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, such as wearing masks, washing your hands frequently and practicing social distancing, can also significantly help lower your risk for the flu.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer Emeritus at Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com. (c)2020 Michael Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. Distributed by King Features Syndicate, Inc.

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