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The flu shot debate is always an emotional one. Supporters on both sides are convinced they are right and that anyone who decides otherwise is simply misinformed.
This article will not be emotional. It's simply going to present the facts. The information contained here was not gathered from internet websites or blogs. It came from peer-reviewed literature written by scientists with the best credentials for commenting on the topic.
Flu Shot History
In 1957 – 1958, a terrible flu outbreak swept the US and resulted in a massive outcry for health agencies and the government to act. Medical options were limited at that time, so in 1960 nationwide flu vaccination became strongly recommended by the US Surgeon General. This launched the beginnings of a precedent which is still in effect today, mainly that everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot each year.
Unfortunately, not one shred of data existed to support the mandate.
Lancet (2012). "This recommendation was made without data for vaccine efficacy or effectiveness for high-risk populations." *Osterholm, M. et al (2012). Lancet Infect Dis 12: 36-44
There were no scientific studies done to warrant this move by health officials, and there have been no scientific studies done since that prove flu shots are either safe or effective.
In the Lancet (2007) "Recent excess mortality studies were unable to confirm a decline in influenza related mortality (flu deaths) since 1980, even as vaccination coverage increased from 15% to 65%." *Simonson, et al (2007). Lancet Infect Dis 7: 658-66
So even though millions more people are getting flu shots since 1980, it has not been shown that flu deaths are decreasing as a result.
Another article in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine commented on statistics collected over the last two decades, saying that "no trial data support a mortality benefit (lowered death rate) with influenza vaccination." In fact, both the rates of flu infection and death have increased in people 65 years and older, and they continue to increase as vaccine coverage becomes more widespread. *Eurich, D. et al (2008). Am j Respir Crit Care Med 178: 527-33
What Vaccine Manufacturers Say About The Flu Shot
The next time you're thinking of getting a flu shot, read the product insert carefully. You'll find some pretty unsettling statements regardless of the vaccine manufacturer. They tell you themselves, in very small writing, that "There have been no controlled clinical trials demonstrating a decrease in influenza after vaccination..." and that "this vaccine has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential."
This is basically telling you, in purposefully confusing language, that no scientific data exists showing that the flu shot protects you from getting the flu, and that no science is available proving it won't give you cancer.
The insert will also give you a list of reported side effects, most of which should be great cause for alarm.
Does The Flu Shot Save Lives
Every year, as winter approaches, the flu shot campaign gets underway with an intense plea for seniors to get their vaccines. As a result, millions of adults age 65 and older are vaccinated at the request of their physician.
There is absolutely no scientific data which proves that vaccinating the elderly protects them from the flu or from dying from the flu. All available statistics are nothing more than observational data and not the result of randomized, placebo controlled trials.
A review of all existing literature on the effectiveness of flu shot campaigns showed that "the available evidence is of poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy, or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 or older." *Jefferson, T. et al (2010). Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 8: Article #CDOO4879
The article goes on to explain that only rarely is the upcoming seasonal flu strain ever predicted with any accuracy. On rare occurrence when it is matched correctly, however, 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms, and there is no evidence that vaccines affect complications (such as pneumonia) or transmission.
Published in the Lancet, 2012:
"There are no randomized controlled trials showing efficacy of TIV (the inactive flu virus) in people aged 2-17 years or adults aged 65 and older. For LAIV (the live flu virus), there are no randomized controlled trials showing efficacy in people aged 8-59." *Osterholm, M. et al (2012). Lancet Infect Dis 12: 36-44
How can this be? All the pamphlets, fliers, and other flu shot advertisements report up to a 85% effectiveness rate! Let me show you how these statistics are reported and why you shouldn't trust them.
How Flu Shot Results Are Reported
A 1994 study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in which 1,838 people over 60 years of age either received a flu shot or a placebo (saline solution). The study concluded that the flu shot resulted in a 50% reduction of the flu. *Govaert, M.E. et al (1994). J.A.M.A. 272: 1661-65