It’s that time of year again – when we (the general public) are bombarded with various flu-vaccination propaganda lauding the extreme importance and eminent risk of possible death if we don’t get our flu-shot. The government says we should get the flu shot every year, as do many industry-sponsored experts and physicians. But does it work and is it safe?
First, some fundamentals. There are over 200 viruses that cause influenza and influenza-like illness which produce the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches and pains, cough and runny noses). Symptoms typically last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness, even in the immunocompromised. The flu vaccination only contains vaccines for three flu viruses. At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses.
The Cochrane Collaboration, which is an independent group of scientists that do database analysis and have no link to any industry or government agencies, have done some of the most extensive studies on the flu vaccine. Their conclusion: it really doesn’t work that well.
The flu-vaccination debate is a classic case of eminence-based medicine (as opposed to evidence-based medicine). Eminence-based medicine relies on the opinion of a medical specialist or other prominent health official when it comes to health matters, rather than relying on a careful assessment of relevant research evidence. It happens a lot, and the flu-vaccine is a poster-child.
Here is an excerpt from the Cochrane Collaboration on the matter:
British Columbia (BC) launched a very aggressive anti-‘flu policy this fall, with healthcare workers being forced to get the ‘flu shot or wear a mask. The rationale is that anyone caring for patients shouldn’t also be passing on viruses to them and making them sick. Fair enough. But does the evidence support mandatory ‘flu shots for healthcare workers? Does the vaccine even work to prevent the spread of the virus?
BC Provincial Health Officer Dr. Perry Kendall thinks so and so do some of his colleagues, including Dr. Paul Van Buynder, Chief Medical Office of Fraser Health. A researcher friend of mine asked Dr. Van Buynder for the evidence used to support this new policy. He received a reference list that fits into the ‘shotgun’ category of literature reviews, containing dozens and dozens of references, some relevant studies as well as editorials, commentaries, eminent opinions, and other detritus. Hmmm. And this is somehow supposed to placate us as a reasonable ‘evidence base’?
When you use a shotgun, you’re likely to hit something – maybe. Included in the province’s ‘evidence’ to support the new policy was a whole range of studies and outcomes, including some deemed ‘biologically implausible’ – such as that vaccinating health workers reduces death by all causes, which is to say the ‘flu shot also prevents death by strangulation, gun shots, and zombies.
To counter this, I looked for the sniper rifle and spoke to Dr. Tom Jefferson, a Rome-based researcher who produces ‘flu vaccine reviews for The Cochrane Collaboration. He’s been doing systematic reviews of ‘flu vaccines and ‘flu drugs for over a decade, so he has more than a passing interest in the subject. Jefferson’s team examined four large cluster randomized trials and one cohort trial of nearly 20,000 healthcare workers. According to their findings, the ‘flu vaccine showed “no effect on specific outcomes: laboratory-proven influenza, pneumonia, or deaths from pneumonia”.
In other words, the ‘flu policy, while eminently agreeable, is unsupported by evidence that has been systematically collected, critically evaluated, and properly synthesized. BC is not the only jurisdiction to adopt a ‘trust us, we’re experts’ pose, but in my opinion, that response is only fit for underlings, not intelligent, responsible healthcare workers facing the pointy end of a syringe this season.
In fact, the data suggests that the only people that the flu vaccine might have a positive impact on are those that are being actively treated for cancer where their immune system is severely depressed. For everybody else, the evidence simply isn’t there.
Is it safe?
Flu-shots are being given at almost all health care facilities around the county; you can even pop into your local drugstore and get one. With them being given out like candy on Halloween, they must be safe, right?
The fact is there are almost NO safety studies conducted on any flu-vaccines and there are absolutely NO long-term studies. This is more than a little disturbing, with so many people touting the benefits and safety of flu vaccines. The honest answer is that they simply don’t know and they are gambling with your health to prove it.
One thing that is known: the flu shot contains mercury (or Thimerosal). Another fact: mercury is a heavy metal and known toxin. It causes immune problems and neurological problems including dementia, insomnia, fatigue, poor short-term memory, tremor, gingivitis, GI and renal disturbances and, ironically, decreased immunity. A cumulative dose of mercury/Thimerosal over your lifetime could have a very detrimental effect on your health, but you don’t hear much about that. If you’re going to get the flu shot, make sure it comes in a single-dose vial which doesn’t contain mercury or Thimerosal.
So how do you prevent the flu without getting a flu shot?
I’ve written numerous blog articles on this subject that explain exactly how you can build up your immune system, what supplements to take, what foods to eat and what to do in order to dramatically decrease your risk of getting the flu. Do those things – every day – and breathe easier knowing you are building your health using an evidence-based, rather than an eminence-based approach to health and healing.