By Dr. Mercola
Flu season is rapidly approaching and, with it, constant reminders to get vaccinated. This despite the fact that mounting research suggests this approach to flu prevention may be ill advised for long-term health, and doesn't actually work in the first place.
In January 2015, U.S. government officials admitted that, in most years, flu shots are, at best, 50 to 60 percent effective at preventing lab confirmed influenza requiring medical care.1
Then, in December 2015, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis2 of flu vaccine effectiveness revealed that, between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.
Flu Vaccine Keeps Missing the Mark
In the 2004/2005 season, the flu vaccine was 10 percent effective. Put another way, 90 percent of the time, it failed.3 During the 2012/2013 flu season, the seasonal flu vaccine was 56 percent effective across all age groups, but only 9 percent effective in seniors.
The 2014/2015 flu vaccine flopped with a mere 18 percent effectiveness rate; 15 percent among children aged 2 to 8, and Fluzone — which delivers FOUR TIMES the normal dose of antigen — was found to lower seniors' risk of influenza by a modest 24 percent compared to the standard-dose vaccine.4
Undeterred by such stupendous failure rates, the CDC expressed unreserved confidence in the 2015/2016 vaccine. In September 2015, CDC Director Tom Frieden said:5
"Get vaccinated … That's the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu."
In the 2015/2016 season, the injectable flu vaccine ended up having a 63 percent effectiveness. However, the popular live virus nasal flu vaccine did not fare nearly as well.
This fall, don't be surprised if the pressure gets ratcheted up a notch, as health authorities fear the CDC's recommendation to avoid the nasal spray (FluMist) this year, due to evidence that it failed to provide any protection to children for three years in a row.
"We're concerned that vaccination rates could be lower this year because the mist isn't available," Frieden recently told The Washington Post.6
Also, while flu vaccination rates among children have steadily climbed, vaccination rates among adults over 50 are dropping, which means extra pressure will likely be applied to get more adults to get flu shots this year.
What Recent Science Says About Annual Flu Vaccinations
It seems no matter how poor influenza vaccine effectiveness is, the call to vaccinate remains. But is getting an annual flu shot really "the best way" to protect yourself against influenza? Research frequently tells a very different story. For example, recent studies have shown that:
• With each successive annual flu vaccination, the protection afforded by the vaccine appears to diminish.7,8 Research published in 2014 concluded that vaccine-induced protection against influenza was greatest among those who had NOT received a flu shot in the previous five years.9
• The flu vaccine may also increase your risk of contracting other, more serious influenza infections.
◦ Data shows that people who received the seasonal flu vaccine in 2008 had twice the risk of getting the H1N1 "swine flu" compared to those who didn't receive a flu shot.10
◦ Compared to children who do not get an annual flu vaccine, those who receive influenza vaccinations have a three times higher risk of hospitalization due to influenza.11
• Statin drugs — taken by 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 45 — may undermine your immune system's ability to respond to the flu vaccine.12,13
After vaccination, antibody concentrations were 38 percent to 67 percent lower in statin users over the age of 65, compared to non-statin users of the same age.14 Antibody concentrations were also reduced in younger people who took statins.
• Independent science reviews have also concluded that flu shots do not appear to prevent influenza or complications of influenza.15,16
Influenza vaccine does not appear to prevent influenza-like-illness (ILI) associated with other types of viruses responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory or gastrointestinal infections during any given flu season.17,18,19,20
We Need Studies That 'Cannot' Be Done in the US
Despite the accumulating scientific evidence AGAINST flu shots being effective, many health authorities insist the evidence is "unclear." Take Dr. Wilbur Chen, an infectious disease expert at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine, for example.
Responding to Canadian findings that flu vaccine effectiveness wanes with repeated vaccinations, he noted that "this has not been replicated by the CDC in the U.S."21
What Chen failed to point out was that clinical studies comparing the health outcomes of individuals receiving annual flu vaccines versus those who remain unvaccinated cannot or will not be done in the U.S. for the simple fact that the U.S. recommends everyone get vaccinated every year. As noted by STAT News:22
"Given that policy, it would be unethical for researchers here to randomly assign some people to forgo vaccinations in some years. But experts elsewhere, including in Hong Kong, where influenza circulates year-round, are trying to put together the funding for what would have to be a large, multiyear study."
FluMist Has Failed to Protect Three Years in a Row
About one-third of annual flu vaccinations given to children in the U.S. have been the live virus nasal spray FluMist, which many pediatricians like to use because it's needle-free.
In recent years, both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) went so far as to say the live virus nasal spray version was the preferred influenza vaccine for healthy children between ages 2 to 8 years because early data suggested it worked a little better for them than the inactivated injected vaccine.
Children were given twodoses to inhale initially, so that, theoretically, they would quickly build immunity.23 But the nasal spray flu vaccine has now turned into a failure of epic proportions. During the 2015/2016 flu season, it had a failure rate of 97 percent. As recently reported by STAT News:24
"In late June an expert committee that advises the U.S. government on vaccination policy recommended that the nasal spray vaccine FluMist, which has been used by millions, not be used this season. The reason: Studies conducted by the CDC had shown that for the past three flu seasons the vaccine wasn't protecting the people who got it.
It's not clear why … Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration are working with the company to try to figure out what's going on … In Canada … data gathered there showed the vaccine was working — though not quite as well as injectable vaccine …"
Live Virus Vaccines Could Potentially Transmit Influenza
While the CDC's decision to pull FluMist off the American market is based on lack of effectiveness, there are other important considerations when considering use of a live-virus vaccine. The injectable flu vaccine is an inactivated vaccine while the nasal spray contains live, albeit weakened (attenuated) virus. The attenuated virus is intended to stimulate the immune system to fight disease without causing clinical symptoms of severe illness.
However, when you get a live attenuated viral vaccine, you shed live vaccine-strain virus in your body fluids — just like when you get a viral infection and shed virus in your body fluids. So after getting a live-virus vaccine, you can asymptomatically shed and transmit vaccine-strain virus to other people, including immune compromised people, for whom vaccine strain virus infection could cause serious complications.
Live attenuated viral vaccines also have the potential to affect the evolution of viruses, which are constantly recombining with each other, because vaccine-strain live viruses are released into the environment where further mutations can occur.25
Flu Vaccine Associated With Serious Disability
Every vaccine carries a risk of injury or death that can be greater for some people, and the potential risk of suffering flu vaccine complications that result in a permanent disability such as paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a risk you need to take into account each time you get a flu shot.
While death and complete disability from influenza vaccine complications may be rare, severe complications and death from seasonal influenza itself are also relatively rare, especially for individuals with healthy immune systems.
So it is wise to weigh the risk of suffering a debilitating side effect from a flu shot relative to the more likely potential of spending a week in bed recovering from a bout with influenza. Most of the deaths attributed to influenza are actually due to complications leading to bacterial pneumonia and, unlike in past centuries, bacterial pneumonia today is often effectively treated with advanced medical care.
As previously noted by Dr. Mark Geier (see video below), who also has a Ph.D. in genetics and spent 10 years of his career at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), GBS is a well-recognized side effect of the influenza vaccine. Even as early as 2003, the CDC recognized the flu vaccine causes an excess of 1.7 cases of GBS per 1 million people vaccinated.26
When the vaccine has an effectiveness of say 10 to 20 percent at best, this vaccine reaction risk is a significant one, even if rare, since your likelihood of actually benefiting from the vaccine at all is so small in terms of being protected against contracting influenza.
Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) shows GBS is the top injury for which people are receiving vaccine injury compensation, and the flu vaccine is the most common vaccine cited by adults seeking federal vaccine injury compensation awards.27
Geier also notes that: a) the number of deaths from influenza number in the hundreds, not thousands, each year (and definitely nowhere near the 36,000 so frequently cited), making it a low-risk disease to vaccinate against, and b) flu vaccines should rightfully be marketed as experimental vaccines, as their constantly changing nature means they cannot meet the legal efficacy and safety requirements for vaccines.
Vaccines Wreak Havoc on Your Immune System
It's important to realize that vaccines (all vaccines, not just flu vaccines) are immunosuppressive, meaning they suppress your immune system, which may not return to normal for weeks, perhaps months. Here are just some of the ways vaccines impair and alter your immune response:
✓ Some components in vaccines, such as thimerosal (mercury preservative) and aluminum adjuvants, are neurotoxic and may depress your immune and brain function
✓ Vaccines can trigger allergic reactions by introducing large foreign protein molecules into your body that have not been properly broken down by your digestive tract (since they are injected)
✓ Lab altered vaccine viruses may further impair your immune response
✓ Vaccines may alter your T-cell function, thereby triggering chronic illness
✓ Foreign DNA/RNA from animal tissues can wreak havoc in your body and trigger autoimmunity in some people
✓ The flu vaccine may pose an immediate risk to your cardiovascular system, causing abnormalities in arterial function and LDL oxidation that may persist for at least two weeks28
How to Protect Yourself Against the Flu Without Vaccination
Health officials now recommend every person over the age of 6 months get an annual flu shot, whether the person is healthy or not, low risk or high. But what will receiving a flu shot every year for decades on end do to your immune system? No one can answer that question because it has never been studied.
Fortunately, there are proactive steps you can take to avoid getting sick during the flu season that do not require getting a flu shot every year. By following these simple guidelines, you can keep your immune system in optimal working order so you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with or, if you do get sick, you will be better prepared to move through it without complications.
✓ Optimize your vitamin D levels. This is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of all kinds, and research suggests vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu — not the flu virus itself.
Raising your vitamin D to a therapeutic level of 40 to 60 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take to avoid the flu.
✓ Avoid sugar and processed foods. Sugar impairs the function of your immune system almost immediately, and a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other pathogenic invaders.
✓ Get plenty of rest. 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.
✓ Address your stress. When stress becomes overwhelming, your body will be less able to fight off the flu and other illness. If you feel stress is taking a toll on your health, consider using an energy psychology tool such as the Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT), which is remarkably effective in relieving stress associated with all kinds of events, from work to family to trauma.
✓ 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.
✓ Take an animal-based omega-3. Increase your intake of healthy and essential fats like the omega-3 found in krill oil, which is crucial for maintaining health. Also avoid damaged omega-6 oils and trans fats found in processed foods as they will 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. Antibacterial soaps are completely unnecessary, however, and cause far more harm than good. Instead, just use a mild, toxin-free soap and warm water.
✓ Use natural immune boosters. Examples include colloidal silver, oil of oregano and garlic. These have potent antibiotic activity, boosting your body's ability to fend off harmful bacteria, viruses and protozoa. Unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance.
✓ Avoid hospitals. Last but not least, I recommend staying clear of 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.