Coming at the end of the largest flu-vaccination campaign in Canadian history, the review of previous studies calls for stepped-up research into alternative, lower-tech ways to combat the virus, such as improved hand washing.
The new paper's co-author is Dr. Tom Jefferson, a British epidemiologist who heads vaccine research for the respected Cochrane Collaboration -- and who has earned a reputation as a scientific dissident for his outspoken criticism of flu vaccination.
In media interviews last year, Dr. Jefferson was quoted as saying he "can't see any reason" for vaccinating anyone against flu -- arguing the shots did nothing to save lives -- and that most influenza-vaccine studies are "rubbish."
Last year was probably one of the largest flu vaccination campaigns ever, not only in Canada but across the world. And as so many other studies, this latest meta-analysis by the respected Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews also concludes that it may have been in vain.
Flu vaccinations keep coming up short in study after study – way short – when it comes to having any measurable impact on what matters most, which is reducing illness and mortality from the flu.
Said lead researcher Dr. Roger Thomas:
"What troubled us is that [shots] had no effect on laboratory-confirmed influenza.
What we were looking for is proof that influenza ... is decreased. Didn't find it.
We looked for proof that pneumonia is reduced. Didn't find it.
We looked for proof deaths from pneumonia are reduced. Didn't find it."
Not surprisingly, however, this does not mean the end of the controversy.
The National Post printed the rebuttal from Dr. Allison McGeer, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital, who believes the Cochrane study is misleading, without citing any particular studies to back up her claims.
Instead she focuses on the fact that one of the co-authors is a critical voice against flu vaccinations, as if that should automatically invalidate the results of the review.
According to the National Post:
“In media interviews last year, Dr. Jefferson was quoted as saying he "can't see any reason" for vaccinating anyone against flu -- arguing the shots did nothing to save lives -- and that most influenza-vaccine studies are "rubbish.”
Dr. McGeer said she finds it "mind boggling" that medical journals that publish Dr. Jefferson's work do not question his provocative analyses.
"Scientists are passionate about what they do. All of us have belief systems and sometimes, as with any human endeavor, your belief system overwhelms the scientific evidence," she said. "The purpose of scientific method, the purpose of publication is to get back the objectivity ... And we are not doing that effectively with Dr. Jefferson."
All that squabbling aside, there’s no shortage of evidence backing up the claim that flu shots are ineffective, and that OTHER anti-flu strategies DO work! So it’s becoming increasingly difficult to justify the stance that yearly flu vaccinations are based on scientific evidence showing demonstrable benefits.
Evidence Showing Flu Shots Don’t Work
The current review in question looked at the effectiveness of immunizing nursing-home workers to protect the elderly in their care. After reviewing five studies conducted between 1997 and 2009, the results show the vaccination campaigns had NO EFFECT on the number of confirmed influenza cases.
They also concluded that vaccinating staff has no proven impact on reducing the number of related pneumonia cases, or pneumonia-linked deaths – which by the way accounts for the vast majority of what the CDC counts as “flu deaths.”
These findings echo previous scientific conclusions.
Here are several other examples showing that flu vaccines do not work for ANY age group:
A study published in the October 2008 issue of the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine found that vaccinating young children against the flu had no impact on flu-related hospitalizations or doctor visits during two recent flu seasons. The researchers concluded that "significant influenza vaccine effectiveness could not be demonstrated for any season, age, or setting" examined.
A 2008 study published in the Lancet found that influenza vaccination was NOT associated with a reduced risk of pneumonia in older people. This also supports an earlier study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
Research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine also confirms that there has been no decrease in deaths from influenza and pneumonia in the elderly, despite the fact that vaccination coverage among the elderly has increased from 15 percent in 1980 to 65 percent now.
In 2007, researchers with the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the National Institutes of Health published this conclusion in the Lancet Infectious Diseases:
“We conclude that frailty selection bias and use of non-specific endpoints such as all-cause mortality, have led cohort studies to greatly exaggerate vaccine benefits.”
A large-scale, systematic review of 51 studies, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2006, found no evidence that the flu vaccine is any more effective than a placebo in children under 2. The studies involved 260,000 children, age 6 to 23 months.
So the question is, why do we continue doing something that has been proven ineffective many times over? As the saying goes, “Insanity is doing the same thing again and again, expecting different results.”
This certainly applies to the practice of vaccinating against the flu every year.
It is my sincere hope that conventional medicine and our health officials will see the light and heed the advice to do high-quality research on other anti-flu measures. And I couldn’t be more passionate about emphasizing the use of vitamin D for this very purpose.
Anti-Flu Measures that Really Work, Without Dangerous Side Effects
I think it’s worth reminding you that, typically, influenza is not a deadly disease. Dying as a result of the flu virus is extremely rare. Typically, the condition will improve after two to three days of bed rest, although some symptoms may persist for about a week.
The vast majority of so-called “flu deaths” are in fact due to bacterial pneumonia – a potential complication of the flu if your immune system is too weak. Other complications can include ear- or sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic health conditions.
The elderly and people with other pre existing medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease, are at higher risk of developing pneumonia after a bout of the flu.
However, and this is important, the conventional treatment for bacterial pneumonia is an antibiotic, so taking a flu vaccine to prevent death from pneumonia doesn’t really make sense. And as you just read, study after study bears out the validity of this common-sense assertion.
If health officials were really interested in adhering to evidence-based medicine, then they would start taking vitamin D very seriously, because based on the current research, it appears the flu may be little more than a symptom of vitamin D deficiency.
Considering how widespread vitamin D deficiency is, it’s no wonder the flu is such a constant.
During flu seasons, vitamin D levels in your blood are typically at their lowest point due to lack of exposure to sunshine.
How vitamin D deficiency can cause the flu becomes easy to understand once you realize that the vitamin D formed when your skin is exposed to sunlight regulates the expression of more about 3,000 genes throughout your body, including ones that influence your immune system to attack and destroy bacteria and viruses.
Hence, being overwhelmed by the “flu bug” could signal that your vitamin D levels are too low, allowing the flu virus to overtake your immune system. I’ve previously listed several studies that show the correlation between low vitamin D levels and increased risk of contracting colds, flu’s and other respiratory infections.
How to Prevent the Flu without Getting a Flu Shot
For most people the flu shot will not protect you against coming down with the flu. And it certainly does not protect you against dying from pneumonia should you get ill. Instead, it does just the opposite and weakens your immune system, which could spell serious trouble, especially if your vitamin D levels are also low.
So why not focus on wholly beneficial strategies to prevent the flu rather than taking your chances with potentially dangerous side effects from a vaccine?
Flu prevention is actually quite simple, and I strongly believe it begins with optimizing your vitamin D levels, and maintaining those healthy levels year-round.
If you follow a healthy lifestyle, you will not have to worry about getting the flu. Take it from me -- I’ve never received a flu shot, and I haven’t missed a day of work due to illness in over 20 years.
The key steps that I follow to stay flu-free include:
Eat right for your nutritional type, including avoiding sugar
Get adequate sleep
Address emotional stress