Influenza Vaccination and COVID19 Mortality in the USA

medRxiv. 2020 Jun 26;2020.06.24.20129817. doi: 10.1101/2020.06.24.20129817. Preprint


COVID-19 mortality rate is higher in the elderly and in those with preexisting chronic medical conditions. The elderly also suffer from increased morbidity and mortality from seasonal influenza infection, and thus annual influenza vaccination is recommended for them. In this study, we explore a possible area-level association between influenza vaccination coverage in people aged 65 years and older and the number of deaths from COVID-19. To this end, we used COVID-19 data until June 10, 2020 together with population health data for the United States at the county level. We fit quasi-Poisson regression models using influenza vaccination coverage in the elderly population as the independent variable and the number of deaths from COVID-19 as the outcome variable. We adjusted for a wide array of potential confounding variables using both county-level generalized propensity scores for influenza vaccination rates, as well as direct adjustment. Our results suggest that influenza vaccination coverage in the elderly population is negatively associated with mortality from COVID-19. This finding is robust to using different analysis periods, different thresholds for inclusion of counties, and a variety of methodologies for confounding adjustment. In conclusion, our results suggest a potential protective effect of the influenza vaccine on COVID-19 mortality in the elderly population. The significant public health implications of this possibility point to an urgent need for studying the relationship between influenza vaccination and COVID-19 mortality at the individual level, to investigate both the epidemiology and any underlying biological mechanism.

Publication types

  • Preprint