By Dr. Mercola
Did you know that during the 2012-2013 flu season, the flu vaccine's effectiveness was found to be just 56 percent across all age groups reviewed by the CDC —in essence, the statistical equivalent of a coin toss. In seniors, aged 65 and over, the US flu vaccines were only nine percent effective.
The 'gold standard' of independent scientific evaluation and analysis, the Cochrane Database Review, has issued no less than five reports between 2006 and 2010, all of which decimate the myth that flu vaccinations are "the most effective flu prevention method" available.
In average conditions, when a flu vaccine at least partially matches the circulating virus, 100 people need to be vaccinated in order to avoid just ONE set of influenza symptoms, according to Cochrane's findings.
Yet as another flu season approaches, all these facts are wholly ignored by conventional medicine and media alike, and you'll certainly never see them mentioned in any flu vaccine promotion campaign.
Unfortunately, in addition to the fact they may not be nearly as effective as advertised, flu vaccines can, and do, cause harm. The featured video is a potent reminder of what vaccine damage can look like, and why it's so important to make well-informed decisions about all vaccinations, including "routine" ones.
While death and complete disability from a flu vaccine may be rare, so is dying from the flu itself. So I strongly recommend weighing the risk of suffering a debilitating side effect of the flu vaccine relative to the more likely potential of spending a week in bed with the flu.
Remember, most deaths attributed to influenza are actually due to bacterial pneumonia, and these days, bacterial pneumonia can be effectively treated with advanced medical care and therapies like respirators and parenteral antibiotics.
Also, it is important to remember that only about 20 percent of all influenza-like illness that occurs every year is actually associated with influenza viruses because many types of respiratory illnesses with flu-like symptoms can be mistaken for influenza. About 80 percent of cases of suspected influenza sent to the CDC for analysis lab test negative for type A or type B influenza.
Vaccine Choices Abound This Year...
This season, your choice of flu vaccine is more diverse than ever. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved several new flu vaccines, including trivalent (three strain) and quadrivalent (four strain) vaccines. As reported in Time Magazine1 last month, available choices this year will include:
|Standard three-strain flu vaccine. This year's version includes influenza strains H1N1 and H3N2, and an influenza B virus
||Egg-free vaccine (FluBlok), in which the influenza virus' were grown in caterpillar cells instead of chicken eggs
|Quadrivalent, or four-strain vaccine, which includes two A class of viruses and two from the B class, which tends to cause illness primarily in young children
||High-dose vaccines, promoted for seniors aged 65 and over
|Nasal spray, called FluMist. This year it will contain four strains opposed to three, matching the quadrivalent injection
||Intradermal vaccine, promoted for those afraid of needles. The vaccine is delivered through a panel of micro-needles rather than a single needle
Universal 'Flu Vaccine' May Already Exist—In the Form of Vitamin D
Scientists are also inching ever closer to the creation of a "universal" flu vaccine— one that would protect against all forms of influenza. One hypothetical universal vaccine type targets so-called "stalk antibodies." However, recent research in pigs has raised a huge red flag, calling into question the validity of this hypothesis, as it appears such a vaccine might actually magnify the impact of some strains of the virus and cause more severe disease.
Another universal vaccine being developed by the pharmaceutical company Sanofi is based on the finding2 that people who have more virus-killing immune cells, known as CD8 T cells, either don't get sick or experience only mild flu symptoms. The idea behind this vaccine is that by stimulating your body to produce more CD8 T cells, it may protect you from getting the flu, or at least from having severe symptoms.
However, while the drug company researchers brag that they know how to use a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to produce more CD8 T cells, they fail to mention that vitamin D is also known to have a direct immune-modulating effect on CD8 T cells. This was revealed in a study3 published three years ago. Other research has proposed that deprivation of sunlight and vitamin D at higher latitudes worsens CD8 T-cell deficiency.4 So, it may be, then, that a 'universal flu vaccine' doesn't need to be created at all because it essentially already exists in the form of vitamin D!
Research Proves Vitamin D Is a Potent Weapon Against Influenza
Robert Edgar Hope-Simpson was one of the first to discover the link between a deficiency in solar radiation and seasonal influenza. Then, in 2006, the journal Epidemiology and Infection5 published Dr. John Cannell's paper "Epidemic Influenza and Vitamin D,"6 which presents the hypothesis that influenza is little more than a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
Clearly, just because you're exposed to a virus does not automatically mean that you will get sick. On the contrary, studies7 have shown that even in people without any antibodies against a particular virus, the majority do not develop any symptoms at all when directly exposed in experiments.
The fact of the matter is that if your immune system is operating optimally, your chances of contracting a cold or flu-like illness or influenza are very slim. Vitamin D is an important player in overall healthy immune function, but it's also an effective antimicrobial agent in its own right, producing 200 to 300 different antimicrobial peptides in your body that kill bacteria, viruses and fungi. So optimizing your vitamin D levels will help combat viruses in more ways than one.
Dr. Cannell followed up on his hypothesis with another study published in the Virology Journal8 in 2008, and his findings were again confirmed in 2009—this time by the largest and most nationally representative study of its kind to date, involving about 19,000 Americans. That same year (2009), it was discovered that almost two-thirds of the children who died from H1N1 swine flu complications had underlying health problems such as epilepsy, cerebral palsy, or other neurodevelopmental disorders. Neurological and immune disorders have been associated with childhood vitamin D deficiency, which could also have made the children more susceptible to swine flu complications.
A 2010 study9 that didn't get any widespread attention also demonstrated the effectiveness of vitamin D as a preventive strategy against influenza. In fact, children taking just 1,200 IUs of vitamin D3 per day, which is considered a low dose, were shown to be 42 percent less likely to come down with the flu. I firmly believe that optimizing your vitamin D levels is the single most important and least expensive action you can take to help strengthen immune function and protect against getting sick during the flu season, and would STRONGLY urge you to have your vitamin D level monitored to confirm your levels are therapeutic at 50-70 ng/ml year-round.
The Best Way to Optimize Your Vitamin D Levels
Research on vitamin D is moving forward swiftly, so you'd be well advised to stay on top of the latest developments as recommendations are refined and updated. I will cover the latest developments here, so you may want to share this article with your peers.
Sun exposure is by far the best way to optimize your vitamin D levels as your body has built-in "fail-safe" mechanisms that help prevent detrimental side effects from occurring. Vitamin D from sunlight acts as a pro-hormone, rapidly converting in your skin into 25-hydroxyvitamin D, or vitamin D3. A viable alternative is to use a safe tanning bed, i.e. one that has an electronic ballast, opposed to a magnetic one.
Sun exposure may also be more beneficial due to the fact that when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it produces cholesterol sulfate, which is important for optimal brain and heart function. Cholesterol sulfate also appears to play an important role in reducing LDL cholesterol, which is associated with cardiovascular disease. So there's more to gain by getting sun exposure than "just" protecting yourself against influenza and flu-like illness.
The problem, of course, is that it can be difficult to get enough sun exposure, especially during winter months when you need it the most. Last year, I created a video to help you determine if you can get enough vitamin D from sun exposure in your area at different times of the year.
If you decide to take supplements to boost your vitamin D levels, based on the latest investigations by Carole Baggerly, director of GrassrootsHealth, the average adult dose required to reach healthy vitamin D levels is around 8,000 IUs of vitamin D per day. For children, many experts agree they need about 35 IUs of vitamin D per pound of body weight. Here, it's important to remember that if you're taking high-dose vitamin D supplements, you ALSO need to take vitamin K2, and monitor your levels via blood testing to ensure that they're within the optimal range.
Diet and Sleep Are Also Important Factors
Besides vitamin D, addressing your diet and sleep pattern can go a long way toward warding off the flu. When it comes to diet, perhaps the most important factor is to avoid processed foods and sugar (especially fructose), as sugar decreases the function of your immune system almost immediately. Be aware that sugar (typically in the form of high fructose corn syrup) is present in foods you may not suspect, like ketchup and fruit juice. A high-sugar diet will also decimate your beneficial bacteria and feed the pathogenic yeast and viruses. Clearly, if you are sick, or specifically want to reduce your chances of getting sick, then sugar is the last thing you should be eating.
It's important to remember that the bacteria in your gut have enormous control of your immune response. In addition to avoiding processed food and sugar, you'd be wise to add in fermented foods on a regular basis, which will help reseed your gut with a wide array of beneficial bacteria.
Sleep is another important factor. Just like it becomes harder for you to get your daily tasks done if you're tired, if your body is overly fatigued it will be harder for it to fight the flu. Be sure to check out my article "Guide to a Good Night's Sleep" for some great tips to help you get quality rest.
Other Strategies to Protect Yourself Against the Flu Without Vaccination
If you want to avoid a serious case of influenza, you need to focus on maintaining a robust and well-functioning immune system. As mentioned, I believe optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the most potent preventive strategies available, followed by diet and sleep. There are other factors that can come into play too, of course. The following guidelines will also act in concert to support your immune system:
- Have Effective Tools to Address Stress. We all face some stress every day, but if stress becomes overwhelming then your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel that stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Technique, which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
- Get Regular Exercise. When you exercise, you increase your circulation and your blood flow throughout your body. The components of your immune system are also better circulated, which means your immune system has a better chance of finding an illness before it spreads. Be sure to stay hydrated – drink plenty of fluids, especially water. However, it would be wise to radically reduce the intensity of your workouts while you are sick. No Peak Fitness exercises until you are better.
- Take a High-Quality Source of Animal-Based Omega-3 Fats. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. It is also vitally important to avoid damaged omega-6 oils that are trans fats and in processed foods as it will seriously damage your immune response.
- Wash Your Hands. Washing your hands will decrease your likelihood of spreading a virus to your nose, mouth or other people. Be sure you don't use antibacterial soap for this – antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, and they cause far more harm than good. Instead, identify a simple, non-toxic soap that you can switch your family to.
- Tried and True Hygiene Measures. In addition to washing your hands regularly, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. If possible, avoid close contact with those who are sick and, if you are sick, avoid close contact with those who are well.
- Use Natural Immune-Boosters. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic, both of which offer effective protection against bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance.
- Avoid Hospitals. I'd recommend you stay away from hospitals unless you're having an emergency and need expert medical care, as hospitals are prime breeding grounds for infections of all kinds. The best place to get plenty of rest and recover from illness that is not life-threatening is usually in the comfort of your own home.
Protect Your Right to Informed Consent and Defend Vaccine Exemptions
With all the uncertainty surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines, it's critical to protect your right to informed consent to vaccination and fight to protect and expand vaccine exemptions in state public health laws. The best way to do this is to get personally involved with your state legislators and the leaders in your community.
THINK GLOBALLY, ACT LOCALLY.
Mass vaccination policies are made at the federal level but vaccine laws are made at the state level. It is at the state level where your action to protect your vaccine choice rights can have the greatest impact. It is critical for EVERYONE to get involved now in standing up for the legal right to make vaccine choices in America because those choices are being threatened by lobbyists representing drug companies, medical trade associations and public health officials, who are trying to persuade legislators to strip all vaccine exemptions from public health laws.
Signing up for NVIC's free Advocacy Portal at www.NVICAdvocacy.org gives you immediate, easy access to your own state legislators on your Smart Phone or computer so you can make your voice heard. You will be kept up-to-date on the latest state bills threatening your vaccine choices and get practical, useful information to help you become an effective vaccine choice advocate in your own community. Also, when national vaccine issues come up, you will have the up-to-date information and call to action items you need at your fingertips..
So please, as your first step, sign up for the NVIC Advocacy Portal.
Share Your Story with the Media and People You Know
If you or a family member has suffered a serious vaccine reaction, injury or death, please talk about it. If we don't share information and experiences with each other, everybody feels alone and afraid to speak up. Write a letter to the editor if you have a different perspective on a vaccine story that appears in your local newspaper. Make a call in to a radio talk show that is only presenting one side of the vaccine story.
I must be frank with you; you have to be brave because you might be strongly criticized for daring to talk about the "other side" of the vaccine story. Be prepared for it and have the courage to not back down. Only by sharing our perspective and what we know to be true about vaccination will the public conversation about vaccination open up so people are not afraid to talk about it.
We cannot allow the drug companies and medical trade associations funded by drug companies or public health officials promoting forced use of a growing list of vaccines to dominate the conversation about vaccination. The vaccine injured cannot be swept under the carpet and treated like nothing more than "statistically acceptable collateral damage" of national one-size-fits-all mandatory vaccination policies that put way too many people at risk for injury and death. We shouldn't be treating people like guinea pigs instead of human beings.
Internet Resources Where You Can Learn More
I encourage you to visit the following web pages on the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) website at www.NVIC.org:
- NVIC Memorial for Vaccine Victims: View descriptions and photos of children and adults, who have suffered vaccine reactions, injuries and deaths. If you or your child experiences an adverse vaccine event, please consider posting and sharing your story here.
- If You Vaccinate, Ask 8 Questions: Learn how to recognize vaccine reaction symptoms and prevent vaccine injuries.
- Vaccine Freedom Wall: View or post descriptions of harassment and sanctions by doctors, employers, school and health officials for making independent vaccine choices.
Connect with Your Doctor or Find a New One That Will Listen and Care
If your pediatrician or doctor refuses to provide medical care to you or your child unless you agree to get vaccines you don't want, I strongly encourage you to have the courage to find another doctor. Harassment, intimidation, and refusal of medical care is becoming the modus operandi of the medical establishment in an effort to stop the change in attitude of many parents about vaccinations after they become truly educated about health and vaccination.
However, there is hope.
At least 15 percent of young doctors recently polled admit that they're starting to adopt a more individualized approach to vaccinations in direct response to the vaccine safety concerns of parents. It is good news that there is a growing number of smart young doctors, who prefer to work as partners with parents in making personalized vaccine decisions for children, including delaying vaccinations or giving children fewer vaccines on the same day or continuing to provide medical care for those families, who decline use of one or more vaccines.
So take the time to locate a doctor, who treats you with compassion and respect and is willing to work with you to do what is right for your child.