The Flu Shot—an “Over-hyped” Vaccination?

Friday Nov 23 | BY |
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Is that flu shot going to help you or hurt you in the long run?

Vaccines work because they follow a simple principle of the body’s intelligence. The immune system learns from exposure to infection and provides future immunity. Polio and small pox, measles, and hepatitis provide protection.

Though not bulletproof, vaccines are effective. But what about flu shots? Are they as good as we’re led to believe?

Conventional doctors, public health officials, and your local Walgreens urge everyone over 6 months of age to get one. Many health care organizations require providers to get shots. The national goal for 2020 in the United States is for 80 percent of the population to get yearly shots. That’s a gold mine for vaccine manufacturers, because flu shots make for a multibillion-dollar global business.

But are these vaccinations any good? What are the risks of repeated artificial immune stimulation, not to mention the concerns about chemical preservatives on childhood development?

CCIVI Report Scolds Conventional Dogma
In October 2012, scientists at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota released a report saying that influenza vaccinations provide only modest protection for healthy young and middle-age adults, and little if any protection for those 65 and older.

The 160-page report, A Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines, is the most exhaustive investigation of the flu vaccine ever undertaken. It challenges the current wisdom of “cradle-to-grave” vaccination policy. It found that effectiveness varies year to year, some years being better than others. But that doesn’t mean the vaccine worked better—sometimes it meant the influenza strain was weaker. The CDC concluded that effectiveness is suboptimal, and that federal vaccination recommendations, which have expanded in recent years, are based on inadequate evidence and poorly executed studies.

“We have over-promoted and over-hyped this vaccine,” said Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. “It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”

An Age Old Companion
Influenza has been around a long time. It originated in China and Southeast Asia when people, pigs, ducks, and chickens lived in close proximity in humid environments. It occurs in three patterns: (1) yearly seasonal epidemics during the winter months, (2) worldwide pandemics, which can occur in any season, and come every decade or so, and (3) super pandemics, which occur every 75-85 years, and have a very high death rate.

Because of massive deaths from the Spanish Flu pandemic during WWI, the influenza vaccine was developed for soldiers and approved in 1945, and approved for civilian use a year later. In 1960, the Surgeon General, Leroy E. Burney, recommended vaccinating three high-risk groups: pregnant women, the chronically ill, and people 65 and over. This was just consensus opinion, however—not science.

Once that recommendation was made, doctors and medical scientists felt that it would be unethical to run a trial that would deny a recommended vaccine to participants assigned to a placebo group. So no large-scale trials for efficacy were completed. The only concern were: How much money could be made, and was it safe enough for recurring business?

Safety wise: it’s fairly good. Even critics of the influenza vaccines agree that serious complications are now rare. But does that mean there are no risks? What about the long-term effects of annual shots? In some types of influenza, one shot is not enough. You may need two or even three in one season for adequate protection. What are the risks of multiple vaccinations in one or two years?

And one over-riding question: Why protect yourself from a common virus that evolves fast with a vaccine that hardly works?

Justifying What Doesn’t Work
CDC officials acknowledge that the vaccines do not work as well in the elderly population as they do in younger healthy adults. This is because frail older people’s immune systems do not mount an effective response to the vaccine. Depending on the year, 3,000 to 49,000 Americans die of influenza, and 90 percent of them are elderly.

The new report from the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy is not the first to point out the shortcomings of influenza vaccines. The Cochrane Collaboration, a prestigious international network of experts that evaluate medical research and write summary reports, concluded in a 2010 review that flu vaccines decrease symptoms in healthy adults under 65 and save people about a half-day of work on average, but that they do not affect the number of people hospitalized, and have minimal impact in seasons when vaccines and viruses are mismatched.

The CDC says that population-based studies show that elderly people who get flu shots are less likely to die (from all causes) than elderly people who don’t get them. But critics hold that these studies suffer from what’s called the “healthy vaccine recipient effect.” It only proves that older people who are in good health to begin with and who take better care of themselves—including going to the doctor regularly and getting flu shots—live longer. It doesn’t prove that flu shots work for older people.

To Get Shot or Not?
My clinical experience taught me that healthy people with strong immune systems have fewer bouts of the flu and recover faster. Catching cold or getting the flu is nature’s way of vaccination.

True, over a lifetime too much exposure to infections weakens the immune system, but that’s more a case for careful avoidance than for more vaccinations. It’s also biologically true that better public health measures and a healthy environment prevent infections from breeding and spreading.

So, instead of getting shot by big pharma, another option for those who want to reduce their risk of influenza may be to wash your hands more often.

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Learn More


Cochrane Summary

Beating The Flu

Dr. J. E. Williams


Dr. Williams is a pioneer in integrative and functional medicine, the author of six books, and a practicing clinician with over 100,000 patient visits. His areas of interest include longevity and viral immunity. Formerly from San Diego, he now resides in Sarasota, Florida and practices at the Florida Integrative Medical Center. He teaches at NOVA Southeastern University and Emperor’s College of Oriental Medicine.

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  1. Bob says:

    Seems odd that he would assert that vaccines are effective. I think the evidence to the contrary is overwhelming…

  2. Hi

    I had vaccinations in the 1950’s and thought they were dreadful things to put into any child. My weight/general health at the age of 3 suffered all yr long after being given a vaccine. The whooping cough was goin around at that time and I was never vaccinated against it and never got ill with it.

    Yet – I was given the mumps, measels etc,, and got all those illnesses and so dont see the point of vaccines. I wish my parents never gave me any of those shots.

    Now that I have CFS to deal with and cant shift it for long, makes me think that the other crap I read about in the older in vaccines such as virus S170 ? etc,. has given me a worse time of all.

    I would go the natural route every time as that has been the only thing that ever got me better.

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