Does getting a flu shot increase your chances of contracting the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, by 36%? No, that’s not true: Doctors told Lead Stories that there is no “cross-effect” between the two, and medical institutions are still recommending that people get the seasonal flu shot.
The claim appeared in an article published by Dr. Serge – The nutrition scientist on March 23, 2020, titled “The flu shot increases by 36% the risk of having the COVID-19 – Dr. Serge” (archived here) which opened:
The medical community strongly advises the population to get a flu shot to help combat the epidemic of this coronavirus.
Honestly, I never made any sense to me.
It is two different types of viruses.
So not now the flu shot works for all viruses?
Concerningly, the latest research shows that getting the flu vaccine increases the risk of getting the coronavirus by 36%!!!
Users on social media only saw this:
Dr. Serge Gregoire, who calls himself a nutrition scientist, is wrong on several counts, says Dr. David Weber, a professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Weber said that “there is no cross-effect between the flu virus and Covid-19.”
“The influenza vaccine neither protects against coronavirus nor increases one’s risk of catching it,” Weber added. Moreover, he said, “there are 1,500 known human pathogens, and the body reacts separately to each of them. There is no cross-effect between influenza and Covid-19. The claim about 36 percent — not a chance.”
In fact, physicians at the University of Alabama at Birmingham are recommending to their patients that they get flu shots, says university spokesman Bob Shepard.
“Since we are still in flu season, getting a flu shot continues to be recommended by UAB physicians as a precaution against influenza,” Shepard said. “There is currently no vaccine to protect against COVID-19.”
The Dr. Serge article, which is based on a study found on ScienceDirect, misses the fact that the study tested for an unspecified “coronavirus,” not SARS-CoV-2, which causes the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that is currently sweeping the globe.
Coronaviruses cause a number of diseases, including the common cold. We know that the coronavirus cited in the study was not SARS-CoV-2 because the study was done in 2017-2018; SARS-CoV-2 was not identified until late 2019.
In addition, the figure of 36% does not appear in the study on Science Direct. That figure comes from a March 11, 2020, story on DisabledVeterans.org, which referenced the same military study on ScienceDirect.
Again, there seems to be a disconnect between what Dr. Serge and the DisabledVeterans.org stories state and the fact that the military study looked at the 2017-2018 flu season.
You and/or your expert do not understand odds ratios. An odds ratio of 1.36 does not imply a 36% increase in risk. It is more like a 7% increase in risk for the common cold in the study year 2017/2018. Given that the study showed effectiveness for the flu vaccine in preventing the flu, and at worst, a 7% increase in the risk of the common cold in the study year, fluvax still looks like a worthwhile exercise.
Anyone at risk of severe risk of covid-19 complications should want as many people as possible to get the fluvax, to reduce the seasonal flu burden on already stretched hospitals who may need resources to treat covid-19 complications.
Medical officials and pharmacists still strongly recommend the flu vaccine.
Here is info about Dr. Serge Gregoire.