The flu vaccine also offer some vital protection against COVID-19, researchers have said.

The NHS jab is annually available for those deemed in the high-risk groups such as the over-65s, young children, and those with a severe chronic illness such as asthma or heart failure.

However, this year the vaccine has been extended beyond the normal at-risk group and it is also being offered to people within the 50 to 64 age bracket, children in their first year of secondary school and anyone who is shielding from coronavirus.

Newly published research has found evidence to suggest that the vaccine might also offer protection against COVID-19.

Two studies carried out in Italy and Brazil, involving more than 100,000 people, found the vaccine reduced the number of coronavirus-related hospital admissions.

Both research teams from Milan University and Sao Paulo University are urging government around the world to encourage people to pursue a flu vaccine sooner, rather than later.

Speaking to MailOnline, Peter Openshaw, a professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said: “This is great news and means the UK flu vaccination campaign is even more crucial. These findings, from studies involving large numbers of people, are really important.

“It means the flu jab is now also a weapon in terms of coronavirus prevention. It’s potentially one of the few effective measures we can undertake this winter.”

The Italian study, published in the journal Vaccines, found in areas where the flu-jab uptake is at 70%, COVID-19 deaths totalled no more than 10 per 100,000 population.

The Brazil trial found mortality rates among those who had the flu jab and became infected with coronavirus were 35% lower.

In the community:

Professor Openshaw said: “The vaccines seem to be training the immune system to react to coronavirus, rather than creating new antibodies or T-cells to fight infection — which is normally how a vaccine for a specific pathogen works.”

However, there have been reports there is a shortage of flu-vaccinations this year, but a spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “There is no national shortage of the flu vaccine, with enough doses for 30 million people to be vaccinated in England. It is completely wrong to suggest otherwise.”

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