While controlling the potential for the spread of COVID-19 remains the top health priority for many facility managers, we cannot forget about influenza. Flu shots should still be top of mind.
The 2020-2021 flu season has been exceptionally mild across North America compared to usual rates, due in no small part to the much lower volumes of people present in facilities, as well as enhanced cleaning and disinfecting measures across all industries.
However, a new study published in the American Journal of Infection Control is encouraging facility managers and employers to ensure their workers still receive flu shots.
The study found that people who received flu shots this season were less likely to test positive for COVID-19. In fact, the odds of testing positive for COVID-19 were reduced by 24 per cent in patients who received an influenza vaccine compared to those who did not. If they were infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, those who got flu shots were less likely to be hospitalized.
Researchers studied data from 27,201 patients who were tested for COVID-19 from February 27, 2020, to July 15, 2020, in the Michigan Medicine healthcare system. Of those patients, the researchers found that 12,997 (47.8 per cent) were vaccinated against flu between August 1, 2019, to July 15, 2020.
Among those vaccinated patients, 525 (4.0 per cent) tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 693 (4.9 per cent) who did not receive flu shots
Researchers speculated that the influenza-vaccinated group may have included healthier people with fewer chronic health conditions, accounting for the lower likelihood of contracting COVID-19 or experiencing less severe symptoms.
However, patients who got flu shots tended to have more comorbidities than the unvaccinated group, including higher rates of chronic pulmonary disease (16.4 per cent vs. 13.4 per cent), congestive heart failure (9.2 per cent vs. 6.7 per cent), diabetes (11.1 per cent vs. 9.7 per cent), and hypertension (23.9 per cent vs. 22.3 per cent).
The feared “twindemic” of COVID-19 and influenza has not materialized through winter 2020-21, but that doesn’t mean protection is any less important for worker and workplace safety. The study noted influenza vaccine “should be promoted to reduce the burden of COVID-19”.