Flu season will look different this year, as the country grapples with a coronavirus pandemic that has killed more than 234,000 people. Many Americans are reluctant to visit a doctor’s office and public health officials worry people will shy away from being immunized.
Although sometimes incorrectly regarded as just another bad cold, flu also kills tens of thousands of people in the U.S. each year, with the very young, the elderly, and those with underlying conditions the most vulnerable. When coupled with the effects of COVID-19, public health experts say it’s more important than ever to get a flu shot.
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It might seem far-fetched that a vaccine designed to protect against one infection could protect against others, too. But a growing body of research suggests that this does, in fact, occur through a process called “trained innate immunity.” Vaccines are known to work by stimulating the adaptive immune system, causing the body to make antibodies that can recognize and attack a specific pathogen if it is encountered again. But recent studies suggest that some vaccines also train the body’s faster-acting and less specific innate immune system, improving its ability to fight off many kinds of infections.
U.S. health officials are urging Americans to get their flu shots this year in the hopes of thwarting a winter ” twindemic”-a situation in which both influenza and COVID-19 spread and sicken the public. But a new study suggests that there could be another key reason to get a flu jab this year: it might reduce your risk of COVID-19.