I’ve been wanting to make this post for quite awhile; I know many readers have questions about the flu vaccine and I also know a certain blogger priest claims the faithful have a duty to get the shot. Therefore, I will be making this a multi-part series to look at the prevalence of the flu, the efficacy of the flu shot, its ingredients, risks, and side effects, and strategies to maximize your immunity independent of a vaccine. I also will touch on the means of production, since I know many readers have concerns about the use of aborted fetal cell lines in vaccines. First, though, let’s answer the questions regarding the prevalence of influenza and the efficacy of vaccination.
The CDC will tell you that the United States experiences more than 30,000 deaths from the flu each year. But did you know they combine deaths from influenza and from bacterial pneumonia to arrive at that statistic? It appears the number of actual influenza deaths is wildly overstated, and we know that, for the majority of Americans, influenza is a mild or moderate illness that will pass on its own. We also know that around 85% of influenza tests are NEGATIVE, making not only the death toll overstated, but the prevalence, too:
This may seem surprising when you consider how many people in your circle get sick each winter, but the truth is that a multitude of pathogens can cause similar symptoms. These illnesses are known in the medical community as “ILIs” or influenza-like illnesses, so it’s probable that your sick friends and family members don’t really have “the flu” but some other viral illness. What’s more, the Cochrane Review, an organization dedicated to a systematic review of medical literature & empirical evidence, has concluded the prevalence in the elderly is only around 6% and healthy adults around 2.3%. So why all the fuss? Is it just to sell more flu shots?
The first flu shots became available in 1945 initially for people over age 65; but progressively over the decades, that age recommendation has been lowered. By 2010, the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) began recommending these vaccines for children as young as 6 months! That’s right: the CDC believes every citizen over 6 months of age needs a season flu shot. Talk about a strategy for selling more shots! But how efficacious are these shots? Remember, this vaccine is different from others because it is seasonal, and each year it is created on a “best guess” as to what that season’s circulating strains will be. So the effectiveness of the vaccine depends on the match (or mismatch) to the current strain. Some years, the cited efficacy rate is 60% while other years its as low as 16%. But what does that really mean? Most people would assume that a 60% efficacy means there’s a 60% chance of NOT catching the flu, however, that’s simply not the case. Consider the following hypothetical scenario: assume that 5 out of 100 people catch the flu. A shot with a 60% efficacy would mean that only 2 people out of 100 would get the flu instead of 5. That paints an entirely different picture, doesn’t it?
In February 2018, Cochrane examined the flu vaccine’s effect in three different age groups: the elderly, healthy adults, and children. Not only did they not see a significant reduction in the incidence of flu among vaccinated adults, they noted the lack of data to support the claims of reduced flu-related complications, hospitalizations, and missed work days. While the incidence of influenza in children was reduced by vaccination, Cochrane noted the lack of randomized controlled trials in the under 2 age groups (despite the push to vaccinate at 6 months) and only ONE randomized controlled trial in pregnant women. Each study can be found at the links, but in this paper summarized the findings on efficacy by saying: “The evidence from four systematic reviews indicates inactivated influenza vaccination efficacy of between 16–59% in healthy adults based on whether the results are clinically derived or empirically derived. The literature that did address hospitalization and pneumonia both indicated at best a small benefit of vaccination with low certainty of evidence (emphasis mine). Finally, no evidence exists regarding the impact of the influenza vaccine on mortality.”
What’s even more intriguing is a series of articles I came across while doing my research for this post. Some have suggested that repeated, cumulative flu vaccination over a period of years diminishes the effect of the shots. In other words, each subsequent flu vaccine you get is less effective than the previous one. Those links are here, here, and here.
Not only does the shot appear to be quite random in its ability to keep you from getting sick, it also does not appear to reduce the transmission of influenza, a key reason cited for those pesky flu shot mandates that multitudes of healthcare workers face each year. These poor people here seem surprised at their findings and issue a call for “more research” since they didn’t quite get the numbers they wanted. This study conducted in 2014 had some very interesting results: 34 healthcare workers tested positive for flu with 7 more diagnosed by an outside physician. Of those, 20 had received a flu vaccine. As one reads the paper further, the authors are forced to conclude that vaccinated healthcare workers who do contract the flu but have mild symptoms, actually transmit the virus to their patients! While these papers examined the injected flu vaccine (made of attenuated virus), the FluMist Quadrivalent is a nasal spray vaccine utilizes a LIVE virus. If you or anyone you know receive the intranasal flu vaccine spray, you will shed. The package insert provides data about shedding; most recipients finishing shedding by day 7, but some continue to shed up to 28 days after vaccination. Clearly this contributes to the spread of infection. So the claim of reduced tramission via vaccination is iffy, at best.
With all the exaggeration of both the disease prevalence and efficacy of the shots, is the flu vaccine even necessary? And is it worth the risk?
In part 2, we will examine the safety of these shots.