Evidence suggests getting the flu shot could help protect you against COVID-19

Fall usually spells flu season and many pharmacies and doctor’s offices have already posted signage encouraging people to get vaccinated — especially as the coronavirus pandemic continues.

If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, there is still time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people get a flu vaccine by the end of October and this year, there is evidence that getting a live one could offer some protection against COVID-19.

That’s what virologist Robert Gallo, who directs the Institute of Human Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and is chairman of the Global Virus Network, told NPR.

"The vaccine has to have a live virus in it. The virus is attenuated so it doesn’t cause disease, but otherwise, the virus is alive,” he said.

NPR reported that over the past 100 years, scientists have seen that “live, attenuated vaccines" appear to give some protection against various diseases — respiratory infections among them — not just the ones targeted.

“There’s plenty of evidence for it,” Gallo said. “The weakness is we don’t really know the longevity [of the protection]. It will probably work only for months, but we can’t say for sure.”

Talk about flu vaccines comes as coronavirus vaccine trials remain underway.

Abram Wagner, a research assistant professor at the University of Michigan’s department of epidemiology, told Time magazine he thinks it’s understandable for some people to want the flu shot but feel skeptical about the COVID-19 vaccine considering the flu vaccine has been tried and tested.

“If you have experience with getting the jab, and you have the shot, it’s no big deal, then I think you will be just more likely to get another shot in the future, even if it’s not the same shot you got in the past,” Wagner said.

Mayo Clinc states that a coronavirus vaccine will “take 12 to 18 months or longer to develop and test in human clinical trials. And we don’t know yet whether an effective vaccine is possible for this virus.”

For now, frequently washing your hands, wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are among the ways people can protect themselves and others against COVID-19, according to the CDC.