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11 December 2016

Should I Get the Flu Shot? CDC Data Raise Concerns

Blue Cross Blue Shield building in Chicago
reads, "Get a Flu Shot."
"One of the greatest concerns with influenza vaccines is that they contain thimerosal, a mercury-based preservative. According to the CDC, 48 million of the 168 million flu vaccines available this year contain mega-doses of thimerosal, grandfathered into the vaccine program in 1932 and never been safety tested... Thimerosal has not been proven safe for administration to pregnant women, whose fetuses are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures. The material safety data sheet (MSDS) for thimerosal warns that it is mutagenic in mammals, and may cause adverse reproductive effects and birth defects in humans."

Should I Get the Flu Shot? CDC Data Raise Concerns
by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., Eco-Watch, 8 December 2016

Dec. 4 to Dec. 10 is "National Influenza Vaccination Week" and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is pushing hard for children and adults to get immunized against the flu. Colorful advertisements warn us to get our flu shots from the walls of our doctor's offices, pharmacies and grocery stores. According to the CDC, getting the flu shot is a matter of life and death. Flu shots, we are told, save lives.

At the same time, government officials have been lamenting that influenza vaccination rates are concerningly low in the U.S. and seem to be falling. Fewer than 50 percent of Americans currently heed the government's call to get their annual flu shot.

Part of the reluctance seems to stem from questions about efficacy, raised by data coming directly from the CDC. Why get a flu shot if the flu shot does not work?

In February the CDC revealed that the 2014-2015 influenza vaccine had an efficacy rate of only 19 percent. If that was not bad enough, in June the CDC's committee that advises on immunization practices announced that nasal spray flu vaccines should not be used in the 2016-2017 flu season because, in the CDC's own words, "no protective benefit could be measured" from taking them.

While this disappointing news may have come as a surprise to parents who had been told by their doctors that the nasal spray vaccines were safe and effective, it was not a surprise to health safety advocates and environmentalists who have raised scientifically based efficacy concerns for nearly as long as the government has been promoting flu vaccines.

Indeed, numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have shown that the flu vaccine is not effective either at reducing the flu or reducing flu-related deaths.

- When a team of researchers at the National Institutes of Health compared flu vaccine rates with influenza-related illness over a 19-year period, from 1980 to 1999, they found that deaths from the flu increased as vaccination rates increased. "In conclusion, the increase in elderly influenza vaccination coverage in the U.S. after 1980 was not accompanied by a decline in influenza-related mortality," the researchers concluded.

- A study, led by a researcher at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, found that increasing vaccination coverage did not correlate with declining mortality and the decline in influenza-related mortality could not be attributed to the flu vaccine but was rather the result of naturally acquired immunity. Observational studies crediting the flu vaccine with contributing to decreased deaths from the flu, "substantially overestimate vaccination benefit," these researchers concluded.

- A study published in the American Journal of Perinatology of vaccine effectiveness in pregnant women in Northern California across five flu seasons found that women who received flu vaccines during pregnancy had the same risk for influenza-like illness as unvaccinated women, and infants born to women who received flu vaccines also had the same risks for influenza or pneumonia as infants born to unvaccinated women. In other words, vaccine status made no difference to whether or not pregnant women or their offspring got the flu.

- A study published in Pediatrics International of Japanese children ages 6 months to 2 years who were vaccinated against the flu found that the influenza vaccine did not reduce the rate of influenza A infections in children under two.

The Cochrane Collaboration is a non-profit independent network of researchers, professionals, patients and people interested in health, based in the United Kingdom. The Cochrane Collaboration's exhaustive reviews of existing medical literature are considered the gold standard in unbiased scientific research. In 2010, when the Cochrane Collaboration reviewed the published literature on the efficacy of influenza vaccination in preventing the flu in healthy adults, researchers noted that industry-sponsored studies were much more likely to report conclusions favorable to influenza vaccines than studies funded from public sources and that, "reliable evidence on influenza vaccine is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions."

A Cochrane review of the use of the flu vaccine in healthy adults found that influenza vaccination "shows no appreciable effect on working days lost or hospitalization."

The quality of the evidence in favor of the flu vaccine is so poor that Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist based in Rome who was then head of the Vaccine Field Group at the Cochrane Collaboration, told two journalists writing for The Atlantic that the vast majority of the studies are deeply flawed. "Rubbish is not a scientific term," Jefferson said in that 2009 interview, "but I think it's the term that applies."

William Redwood, MD, an emergency room doctor based in Atlanta, Georgia, who has been practicing medicine for 26 years, does not think it is in the best interests of public health for the CDC to push the influenza vaccine, given the preponderance of government data that calls its efficacy into question.

"Read the Cochrane review. The studies show there is very little value in the flu vaccine," Redwood said. "More physicians are asking questions about it because the current recommendation just doesn't make sense."

CDC data suggest flu shots may take more lives than they save

[The article continues, discussing how many people actually die from the flu and the mercury-based preservative found in the vaccine, thimerosal.]

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