November 2015       << Home         Printer Friendly PDF          Volume 14 Issue 11

The Benefits of Flu Shots Oversold

Influenza vaccination
: a summary of Cochrane Reviews 
from the February 2015 European Journal of Clinical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases:

"The Cochrane Library was systematically searched for meta-analyses regarding influenza vaccination of various populations, both healthy and sick. An effect in reducing the number of cases of influenza , influenza-like illness or complications to influenza was found in some studies, but, generally, the quality of the studies was low, and several studies lacked hard clinical endpoints. Data on adverse effects were scarce. More randomised controlled trials investigating the effects of influenza vaccination are warranted."


"Most evidence for the efficacy of influenza vaccination stems from observational studies…(the benefits are) largely attributed to a confounder known as the "healthy vaccine recipient effect": healthy individuals are more likely to get vaccinated, and have better outcomes."


From the November 2014 McDougall Newsletter
I Say "No" to Flu Shots

I Say "No" to Flu ShotsIn the US, national guidelines for receiving an annual flu vaccine extend to almost everyone over the age of six months old. Nevertheless, I recommend that my patients of all ages not take these incessantly promoted immunizations, primarily because of their lack of effectiveness.


In addition, there are some risks from influenza vaccines, including injection site pain, allergic reactions, fever, fatigue, headache, and narcolepsy (excessive sleepiness).


I understand that you have been led to believe flu shots are a modern medical advancement. Your suspicions should be raised because direct advertising to consumers is intrusive, obnoxious, and nonstop. A phone call to your local pharmacist begins with a message to get "the flu shot," which happens to be conveniently provided at the pharmacy without an appointment or a physician's prescription. Supermarkets offer a sizable discount on groceries if you will allow yourself to be injected (or infected) with three or four viral proteins derived from past outbreaks, and sometimes a touch of mercury.


Influenza vaccines are composed of either killed or weakened (attenuated) viruses. Multidose vials of killed vaccines contain the well-established toxic metal, mercury (thimerosal), as a preservative. Reported harms of thimerosal on human infants or children include death, malformations, autoimmune reactions, developmental delays, and autism. Single-dose influenza vaccines are mercury-free. Live, attenuated virus vaccines are also a mercury-free alternative offered only to healthy people between ages 2 and 49. The administration of this live virus causes infection, therefore, it is not recommended for those people considered more vulnerable to complications from this infection: infants, pregnant women, elderly, and immune-compromised patients.


Universal Lack of Real-life Effectiveness


Vaccines are used to provoke an immune response to potentially life-threatening organisms, a bacteria or virus. From this intended exposure the body acquires immunity in a relatively harmless way. Once stimulated by proteins manufactured by pharmaceutical companies, the body remembers the villains, and if re-exposed to similar agents, like real measles viruses, the immune system quickly launches a counterattack, thereby preventing a full-blown illness. However, all vaccines are not the same. To the point of success in preventing illness, flu vaccines do not live up to the hype.


The ineffectiveness of commercially produced influenza vaccines is said to be primarily due to their formula consisting of materials derived from three or four viruses selected from previous outbreaks occurring over the past several years. This year's virus is too commonly an entirely new strain, not covered by the immune response initiated by the well-meant flu shot.


A close look at the scientific evidence generated from past campaigns to prevent widespread influenza reveals disappointing results, especially after factoring in the efforts made by the pharmaceutical industries to manipulate the research for their own financial gains.


Summary Reports Show the Scarcity of Benefits:

2010 Cochrane Review found no benefits from vaccinating the elderly.


2012 Cochrane Review showed little benefit for children: "No benefits for those two years or younger. Twenty-eight children over the age of six needed to be vaccinated to prevent one case of influenza.


2012 Lancet Infectious Disease Review showed little benefit in adults: "… evidence for consistent high-level protection was elusive for the present generation of vaccines, especially in individuals at risk of medical complications or those aged 65 years or older."


2013 Cochrane Review found no benefits for healthcare workers or for preventing influenza in elderly residents in long-term care facilities.


2014 European Review found that the 2012-2013 influenza vaccine had low to moderate effectiveness, and recommended that seasonal influenza vaccines be improved to achieve acceptable protection levels.


2014 Cochrane Review found the preventive effect for healthy adults was small: "…at least 40 people would need vaccination to avoid one influenza-like effect on working days lost or hospitalization seen…benefits for pregnant women were uncertain or at least very limited."



Aside from Flu, I Do Believe in Vaccinations


In my lifetime I have seen undeniable benefits from vaccines: smallpox has been eradicated, and poliomyelitis occurs so rarely in foreign countries that the few cases make worldwide headlines. Growing up, I thought all infectious diseases would soon be conquered. Mary and I, and all of our children and grandchildren are fully immunized against once common threats, such as tetanus, diphtheria, polio, and viral hepatitis. Hopefully, I am doing more good than harm for my family. As a physician, I have seen patients with all of these diseases.


I am not persuaded by arguments from the anti-vaccine movements. However, my enthusiasm has been tempered over the years. I am very concerned about the additives, especially the aluminum,* found in many of these preparations (Commonly prescribed influenza vaccines do not contain aluminum.) Safer and more effective vaccines are definitely needed.


Immunizations, along with improved sanitation, adequate food (less starvation), and possibly antibiotics have been important advances that have reduced human suffering. To date, the flu vaccine cannot be added to this short list of medical achievements.


*Aluminum is used as an adjuvant (a helper) to stimulate the immune system's response to the killed bacteria and viruses used in many vaccines injected under the skin. The customer is told, without equivocation, that aluminum is proven harmless. This is not true. This toxic metal can cause immediate damage to the nervous system (speech abnormalities, tremors, memory loss, and seizures), and prolonged exposure may cause dementia as serious as Alzheimer's disease.


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