This is the most prominent question I receive every day from clients. While data on the safety and efficacy of the current Covid vaccines are scant, there is a great deal of data available for the flu vaccine that can provide valuable insights.

The Flu Vaccine – Separating Fact from Fiction

There are lots of opinions out there on whether or not a person should or should not get the flu vaccine. While these opinions can be useful, I like to rely on data as much as possible when making health care decisions. I recently read a vaccine risk statement from the doctors at Physicians for Informed Consent that is based on substantial peer-reviewed research (see the vaccine risk statement with accompanying references here) that was funded, collected and/or published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institute of Health (NIH), the Mayo Clinic, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the British Medical Journal (BMJ) amongst others.

Here are a few top line take-aways from the accumulated data:

  1. There is a 65% increased risk of non-flu acute respiratory illness in people that get the flu vaccine. This was based on a three year study funded by the CDC. The most common non-flu pathogens found in those that received the flu vaccine were rhinovirus, enterovirus, respiratory syncytial virus and coronaviruses.
  2. The flu vaccine doesn’t reduce demand on hospitals; this included specific population studies on the elderly, adults and children aged 6 months to 18 years old. In no population did the research show that vaccination reduced hospitalizations. Furthermore, in children, research conducted by the Mayo Clinic found that those that did receive the flu vaccine had a 300% increased risk of hospitalization compared to children that did not receive the flu vaccine.
  3. The flu vaccine doesn’t prevent the spread of the flu.
  4. The flu vaccine fails to prevent the flu about 65% of the time.
  5. Repeat doses of the flu vaccine may increase the risk of flu vaccine failure, meaning that getting the flu vaccine on a yearly basis may lower the effectiveness of the vaccine.
  6. The flu vaccine doesn’t reduce deaths from pneumonia or the flu.
  7. Patients don’t benefit from the vaccination of healthcare workers. This was based on a review of more than 30 influenza vaccine studies conducted for the Cochrane Library; in fact, the authors concluded that “This review does not provide reasonable evidence to support the vaccination of healthcare workers to prevent influenza.”
  8. Flu vaccine mandates are not science-based.

Taken as a whole, the data presented in this broad review of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine does not support its widespread use.

The COVID Vaccine – the Great Mystery

Hype and marketing aside, there simply isn’t a sufficient body of data available to make an informed decision on the merits of getting the existing COVID vaccines. The limited data that has been published by the makers of the vaccines are on limited populations over very short periods of time. In addition, none of the studies to date have looked at the ability of the vaccines to reduce the transmission of the virus. Unfortunately, this leaves each person to make their own health care decision with extremely limited data. One option to fill in some of the gaps in the data would be to rely on the substantial amount of data available on the flu vaccine (like that presented above). However, the great unknown is that the COVID vaccines rely on a completely new technology (mRNA), which makes a direct comparison between the flu and COVID vaccine effectiveness and safety difficult at best.

Final Thoughts

Clearly, the pros and cons of the COVID vaccines are  complex issues that are very far from being scientifically decided. It is certainly not difficult to find a wide range of opinions on the efficacy and usefulness of these vaccines. However, without data to back up those assertions, each of us is left to make what we feel is the best decision for ourselves and our loved ones. Whether you chose to get either the flu or the COVID vaccine, you should still do everything you can to improve your overall health. To that end, here are some references that may interest you: