How is influenza different from COVID-19? What does that mean for the COVID-19 vaccine?

One interesting note today is that there has been almost no flu across the U.S. this winter. Emergency rooms that were overwhelmed with influenza last winter see none of it now and in fact, in most areas, they have not identified a single patient infected with Influenza A. 

Why has COVID-19 continued to spread in the U.S. at the same time influenza has been totally controlled. This probably says a lot about the two viruses and our attempts to control them.

The influenza vaccine was very effective this year.

Influenza, as compared to COVID-19, is harder to spread. A single person normally infects only a few other people. Despite this, once infection occurs, the disease is highly pathogenic and causes significant illness in almost everyone who gets infected. So people know when they are infected with flu and dread the illness.

We also have an effective vaccine this year, and the increase in vaccinations was due to awareness of COVID-19. This, masks, and social distancing helped reduce infection numbers.

As we have come to understand, COVID-19 is a different animal entirely. COVID-19 can be spread fairly readily, and we’re now aware of super spreader events where a single individual can infect a large number of people at a single time. In contrast to influenza, SARS-CoV-2 is not as pathogenic as influenza virus. Many people do not get sick with this infection, and most survive with significant, but not life-threatening, symptoms.

Asingle Biogen conference may have resulted in 200,000 COVID-19 infections world wide.

Therefore, why then are so many people sick with COVID-19? Again, the virus is endemic in our population now, and there are so many infected people that even a smaller percentage of seriously ill individuals results in a lot of sick folks!   

I see statements from anti-vaxxers who dismiss the Covid-19 vaccines because in the studies, you needed to vaccinate a couple hundred people to prevent one case of COVID-19. They simply do not understand why this was the case in the trials.

Most folks in the vaccine trials were careful to avoid COVID-19. They weren’t going to super spreader events or going into crowds indoors without a mask. The likelihood they would get infected with COVID-19 was pretty low, so it took a lot of vaccinations to prevent a single infection.

Now, look around as you go to the store, or have to go to work in a crowded warehouse or factory.

Maybe you went into a restaurant to get takeout. How many folks are wearing masks?

A lot more people out there are infected. Given this, most folk’s risk of infection is much higher now than at the time of the vaccine studies, if only because of the number of infected people! Therefore, the vaccines will actually prevent many more infections than when they were tested given the current, increased likelihood of COVID-19 infection.

Remember: do the math….

No one has died from a COVID-19 vaccine.

No one has been seriously injured from a COVID-19 vaccine.

360,000 Americans have died from COVID-19

We are averaging over 200,000 new COVID-19 cases a day.

Published by jbakerjrblog

Immunologist, former Army MD, former head of allergy and clinical immunology at University of Michigan, vaccine developer and opinionated guy.

8 thoughts on “How is influenza different from COVID-19? What does that mean for the COVID-19 vaccine?

  1. Dr. Baker,

    You are spot on! What I would love to do though it stop trying to convince the anti-vaxers so much and put much more focus on those who WANT to be vaccinated-. We are out their. We can be champions for the COVID19 vaccination. I would be happy to post something on social media or in a PSA to tell others what it means to me to be vaccinated. I heard on the local news last night(WDIV) that MI is near the bottom as far as actually getting vaccines into arms. Why have we not heard from Gov Whitmer on this or Dr.. Joneigh S. Khaldun. I have heard other Governors on CNN talking about their challenges and what they are doing to rectify the issues. Let’s get moving MI!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Jim – thank you for providing this valuable information. Do you have any information or thoughts on why this new variant is reported to be more infectious? Can it spread more effectively through surfaces and not just aerosol? Thanks again, looks like it’s going to be a while before we get vaccinated in SC.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Variant appears to be respiratory transmitted much like initial strain. Slightly more virus production in one study, and may defeat monoclonal antibody drugs, but not vaccine.


  3. Dear Doctor Baker,

    Am I so pleased to read your blog. I am an 89 year old Korean War Veteran and was an Army laboratory medical technologist In the 279th General Hospital. I was one of the first to draw blood from several Korean Hemorrhagic Fever patients before we knew it was not transmissible. Scary! After the GI Bill gave me my degree, I joined Difco Laboratories rising finally as VP Quality Assurance and Government Affairs. I was a frequent visitor to CDC, NIH , and FDA. I get your log and wish every citizen would pay close attention. I hope you are the modern voice not just crying in the wilderness of old. I always think how difficult it was for Ignatz Semmelweis to get Doctors to wash their hands before deliveries just after theY had performed an autopsy. Keep on ticking as the Timex people used to say.

    Walter S Fisher
    Ann Arbor

    Liked by 2 people




    Take the vaccination to the people.

    Vaccinations by appointment and email is not working. It’s too slow
    Rural areas may not even have email internet or cell phones
    People would not have to stand in line with further possibility of spreading virus

    Scheduled stops in neighborhoods
    Freedom Train Schedules posted on TV public service announcements i.e. free
    Rent closed restaurant coolers and freezers to store vaccinations in the neighborhood. UPS deliveries of vaccine could be directly to this location. Hire restaurant owners to oversee the storage and dispensation records. They are used to dealing with supply chains.
    When you get to the neighbor hood people would sign up with the truck. Go to their house and wait for a text call to have them come out for their vaccination.


    Vaccinated people would be give a Freedom Train sticker to put on their door to let neighbors know who had been vaccinated
    The trucks would return in three weeks to do second vaccination or first vaccination. This would be in the database


    Free Publie Service Announcement on TV
    Banners on the trucks for immediate recognition
    When trucks enter neighborhood they would play some type of sound or music like the old ice cream trucks
    Use voter registration database, us zipcode database,census database
    Phone GPS system to record neighborhoods
    When truck arrives in neighborhood people would take a number. Then could go back to their house and be texted or called when there number was up. Just like they do for the Motor Vehicle
    A symbol/ banner given to vacinated households to be placed the front door of houses saying they have been vaccinated

    Medical Army Vehicles
    Dormant school buses working but out of commission due to covid
    School bus drivers could be enlisted and paid to drive busses

    Rent Refrigerated trucks that are under utilized because of shut down of restaurants i.e. Sysco, Gfs etc
    Rent neighborhood coolers/freezer in restaurants that have been shut down

    WHO Mobilize:
    Mobilize Army medical service people
    Mobilize County Health Department approval of closed restaurants that have coolers and freezers.
    Retired Nurses
    Nursing Students
    Resident Drs.
    Salvation Army
    Food Bank Workers, unemployed restaurant workers etc


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