During One of the Worst Flu Seasons, is the Flu Vaccine the Answer?

During One of the Worst Flu Seasons, is the Flu Vaccine the Answer?

Story at-a-glance -

  • The US is currently in the middle of at least three widespread outbreaks of influenza and flu-like illness, including an unusually aggressive influenza virus, a novel norovirus, whooping cough (pertussis), as well as an uptick in laryngitis, and strep with cough
  • Apparently many flu shot recipients are coming down with influenza and flu-like illness despite having been vaccinated—a strong indication that flu vaccines are ineffective in keeping people well despite the fact that the vaccines available this year are a good match to the actual flu strains in circulation
  • According to recent reviews of hundreds of studies on the effectiveness of flu vaccines in children and adults, flu shots were found to be quite ineffective. At best, the vaccines might be effective against influenza A and B viruses about half the time and the CDC admits that influenza viruses only represent about 20-30 percent of all circulating viruses in this and other “flu seasons.”
  • The combined results of vaccine trials show that under ideal conditions (influenza vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms.
  • Vaccine studies show influenza vaccine use does not affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost, but were found to cause one case of Guillain-Barré syndrome for every one million vaccinations

By Dr. Mercola

More people than ever are reportedly sick this winter,1 including those who got their flu vaccination. But while the push for vaccination reaches a fever pitch, the hard evidence has yet again shown that flu vaccines rarely work, and when they do, they don't offer much in terms of protection.

There are many other, far more effective ways to prevent the flu and other flu-like illness, such as dietary interventions, making sure your vitamin D and gut flora are optimized, being more meticulous about washing your hands, getting enough exercise and sleep, and eating foods that support your immune system like oil of oregano and garlic.

Multiple Epidemics Emerging at Once

According to the New York Times,2 the United States is in the middle of not just one, but three emerging flu or flulike epidemics:

  • An early start to the annual flu season with "an unusually aggressive virus"
  • A surge in a new type of norovirus ("stomach flu"), known as the Sydney 2012 variant, and
  • "The worst whooping cough (pertussis) outbreak in 60 years"

Boston has declared a health emergency, as hospitals are filling up. In New York, many are also coming down with laryngitis, characterized by a sore, scratchy throat, and sometimes loss of voice. Other infections also appear to be widespread. One of the researchers on my staff was recently ill with severe flu-like symptoms. She told me:

"I just went through this over Christmas/New Years. I was around an Alzheimer's patient who'd been sick. I was helping him get seated in a chair when he began coughing in my face. Two days later I had a fever of 101.2 and really felt bad. I also was coughing. I went to my doctor, who did a flu test. But it was NOT the flu... a few tests later, I found out I had strep with a cough.

It lasts about a week, the fever about three days. The doctor said it's 'terribly contagious' and it's going around 'all over.'

Since then I've talked to many people locally who said they came down with this 'flu' even though they had a flu shot (I never get them myself)... yet I'm the only one I've talked with whose doctor bothered to actually do tests to determine whether it was flu or not -- everybody else's doctor just assumed it was flu. Makes me wonder how much of this reported 'flu' is flu, and how much is this strep-with-cough thing that I had?"

Is Vaccination the Answer?

According to Google Flu data,3 this year's flu season is the worst we've seen in quite some time, reaching a peak, or "Intense" level as of mid-December 2012. It all sounds ominous, to say the least, and clearly you should take precautions to avoid becoming a statistic. But the official solution to all these outbreaks remains disappointingly weak. "Get vaccinated" is the mantra, even though the scientific evidence backing such a recommendation is flimsy at best. Forbes magazine, for example, recently presented a slide show4 of "how to ward off the flu," beginning with a flu shot recommendation:

"It's good news if have already been vaccinated so far this season. But if you have not already had the vaccine, it is still recommended that you get it," Forbes states.

A new flu strain, the "H3N2 type variant," has been identified as being particularly aggressive, and is believed to be the cause of many if not most of the illnesses.5 Interestingly, according to Dr. Joseph Bresee, a medical epidemiologist in the influenza division at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the H3N2 component in this year's seasonal flu vaccine "has been a good match against almost all the confirmed H3N2 samples the agency has tested," the New York Times reports.6

Still, effective or not, vaccines are "flying off the shelves" and manufacturers are reporting shortages7 of both flu vaccines and Tamiflu — the potentially dangerous antiviral recommended if you've already contracted the flu — in part due to the early onset of the flu season. Michael Szumera, a spokesman for Sanofi told Fox Business:8

"At this point we are not able to make any more vaccine because we are gearing up for next year's vaccine."

According to one report, 112 million Americans had been vaccinated against the flu by late 2012. Walgreen's recently reported they'd administered 5.7 million flu shots so far this season — up from 5.3 million in 2012.9 The fact that many flu shot recipients are still coming down with serious influenza should be a testament to the ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine — not a selling point for it... Especially when you consider the fact that the vaccines available this year are a good match to the actual influenza type A and B strains in circulation.

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The Battle over Flu Vaccine Continues as Flu Spreads

The power of the media to modify behavior is being milked for all its worth this season, with "superstars" of every caliber getting their flu shots on air. For example, Piers Morgan, host of Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, rolled up his sleeve to receive his first ever flu shot on the Dr. Oz show.10

This is a Flash-based video and may not be viewable on mobile devices.

Dr. Oz then went on to satisfy the station's advertisers by reciting the conventional vaccination recommendations while completely ignoring the issues of safety and effectiveness — or rather the lack thereof. No mention was made about individual susceptibly that might make you more prone to vaccine damage, or the questionable rationale for vaccinating pregnant women, babies and all Americans each and every year, starting from the age of 6 months throughout childhood and adulthood until the year of death...

Coming from someone like Dr. Oz, such nonchalance is disappointing to say the least. Avoiding the issue of side effects, which can be just as lethal as the flu itself, is nothing short of irresponsible. Some states, such as New Jersey and Connecticut, now have mandates in place preventing children from attending school unless they receive the flu vaccine each year. This is a draconian over-reach that can place young children at grave risk. To see a powerful profile of a flu vaccine victim (in this case a former nursing professor), please see my previous article The Hidden Risks in This Heavily Promoted Seasonal Routine.

How is Firing Competent Nurses in the Best Interest of Patients?

In related news, some states are now taking corrective action against health care workers who refuse to get vaccinated. In one Indiana hospital, eight nurses were recently fired for not complying with the hospital's new mandatory vaccination rule, announced in September 2012.

One of them was Ethel Hoover, who had worked at the hospital for 22 years, with a stellar work record. How can you possibly justify firing a highly skilled veteran nurse who doesn't want to get a flu shot, only to replace her with a vaccinated but less experienced newcomer? Seriously... How does this translate into patient safety? If you were seriously ill, who would you rather have tending to your health? Hoover told ABC News:11

"'This is my body. I have a right to refuse the flu vaccine. For 21 years, I have religiously not taken the flu vaccine, and now you're telling me that I believe in it.' ...When Hoover first heard about the mandate, she said she didn't realize officials would take it so seriously. She said she filed two medical exemptions, a religious exemption and two appeals, but they were all denied. The Dec. 15 flu shot deadline came and went. Hoover's last day of employment was Dec. 21.

Fellow nurse Kacy Davis said she and her colleagues were 'horrified' over Hoover's firing, calling her their 'go-to' nurse and a 'preceptor,' ABC News reports.

...Alan Phillips, who represented several nurses at the hospital, says his clients had the right to refuse their flu shots under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964,12 which prohibits religious discrimination of employees. Religion is legally broad under the First Amendment, so it could include any strongly held belief, he said, adding that the belief flu shots are bad should suffice...

Phillips, who is based out of North Carolina, has made a name for himself fighting for employees' rights to get out of mandated flu shots, but he has never needed to go to court. Although he usually handles a couple dozen health care workers per year, he had 150 this fall in 25 states."

NOTEAttorney Phillips reports that he was misquoted here. He claims that he specifically told the ABC article author that religion under the First Amendment does *not* include "any strongly held belief" or a "belief that vaccines are bad." Beliefs that are protected under the Constitution must be religious in nature, as the law defines that phrase, and sincerely held. The way that the law defines "religious in nature" is usually not consistent with most people's common sense approach; the law is tricky in this area.
If the administrators who made this ludicrous decision were to ever step back and look at the scenario rationally and holistically, they would soon realize that they fired a valuable veteran employee and would most likely replace her with a rookie, an inexperienced nurse that could not provide anywhere near as competent care to the patients. If they ever bothered to independently use their own brain cells, rather than rely on the CDC and the media, they would quickly realize that there is no solid evidence to support the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Watching the Cochrane video below would have been a major start in the right direction. Once viewed, it probably wouldn't take long for them to realize that they seriously compromised patient care in their hospital by firing this nurse.

When Propaganda Spin Goes Hilariously Bad...

A recent Activist Post by Janet C. Phelan13 points out just how ridiculously bad a lot of the reporting passing for "news" is today:

"In an article entitled, 'Flu reaches epidemic level in U.S.,' says CDC, reporter Sharon Begley pumps up alarm concerning the virulent and epidemic nature of the current flu sweeping the country. However, the report admits it lacks documentation of the very numbers it purports to use to buttress its claims.

While the Reuters article, published on January 11, solemnly announces that a pandemic is officially at play when the flu achieves a rate of 7.2 % of deaths during a time period, it also earnestly states that there is no definitive count of the total deaths caused by the flu. Wait a minute here... So the exact percentage of deaths caused by flu is known but the number of flu deaths is not?

I wasn't planning to go on a rant about the idiocy of our mainstream media at this juncture, but it does appear that a few things must be said. First of all, reporters must be schooled in statistics in order to complete a journalism graduate program. That course is not for wimps, I can assure you... anyone who had been in my class at the University of Missouri Graduate School of Journalism would have received a failing grade if they had produced this article..."

'Gold Standard' of Scientific Inquiries Blast Flu Vaccine Claims

Again and again you hear that the influenza vaccine is a first-line, essential prevention tool against the flu. And yet, science does not support this blanket recommendation. According to Dr. Tom Jefferson with the Cochrane Collaboration — an international, independent, not-for-profit organization of over 28,000 contributors from more than 100 countries — "the response to the [flu] virus is driven by vested interests." The following video is from 2009, when the H1N1 swine flu pandemic had just been announced. But he's talking about the seasonal flu vaccine when he states:

"...they do not have a good track record. The evidence from the hundreds of studies that we've synthesized, is that sometimes they work a little, and sometimes they don't. In general, the quality of the literature is such that it is very difficult to understand if they actually work."

So, are you thinking about vaccinating your infant with the flu vaccine? Then I highly recommend reading the independent study review from the Cochrane Collaboration14 first, published as recently as August 15, 2012. According to these independent research reviewers:

"The review authors found that in children aged from two years, nasal spray vaccines made from weakened influenza viruses were better at preventing illness caused by the influenza virus than injected vaccines made from the killed virus. Neither type was particularly good at preventing 'flu-like illness' caused by other types of viruses. In children under the age of two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo.

It was not possible to analyse the safety of vaccines from the studies due to the lack of standardisation in the information given, but very little information was found on the safety of inactivated vaccines, the most commonly used vaccine in young children. Influenza vaccines were associated with serious harms such as narcolepsy and febrile convulsions. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months of age."

Their independent review of flu vaccines for adults15 also cast serious doubt on the blanket recommendation to use flu vaccine as the primary form of protection against the flu:

"Over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness which produce the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches and pains, cough and runny noses). Without laboratory tests, doctors cannot tell the two illnesses apart. Both last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness.

At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10 percent of all circulating viruses.

Authors of this review assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms.

Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost but caused one case of Guillain-Barré syndrome (a major neurological condition leading to paralysis) for every one million vaccinations.

Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies and four had no funding declaration. Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products and some of the evidence comes from trials carried out in ideal viral circulation and matching conditions and because the harms evidence base is limited."

Simple Graphic Illustration of How the Flu Infects You

The following video offers an excellent, rapid-fire cliff-notes-type education on flu viruses, where the "H" and "N" flu classifications come from and their transmission, along with common flu symptoms. Bear in mind that I obviously do NOT recommend or advise getting a flu vaccine, which is listed as one of the prevention methods at the end of this video. I recommend that anyone thinking about getting a flu shot carefully consider the risks of the vaccine and influenza and make an well educated decision for themselves.

Insider Expert Reveals Previously Unrevealed Physician Flu Incentives

An article in Infectious Diseases in Children, titled "Influenza vaccination makes sense for everyone,"16 written by Dr. Richard Lander, MD, a pediatrician in private practice in northern New Jersey and a member of the Infectious Diseases in Children Editorial Board, offers an insightful glimpse into the motivations behind the at times near-rabid push for flu vaccinations. In short, it's a money-maker.

No, Dr. Lander most certainly did not intend for this to be the conclusion after reading his article, but it does spell out the financial incentives for pediatricians and other physicians to "sell, sell, sell!" the vaccine to as many as possible. When you read his disclosure, the root of his pro-vaccination stance becomes quite obvious as it too is the color of green... Not only is he co-owner of the National Discount Vaccine Alliance, he's also a speaker for Merck, Novartis, Pfizer and Sanofi-Pasteur.

Here, for the first time, a real doctor, in real time, with real numbers reveals exactly how profitable giving the flu vaccine is for doctors. He writes:

"Before the influenza season began, physicians had been told to get ready for a bad season. With this in mind, my practice started vaccinating during the summer as soon as our influenza vaccines arrived. We gave it to the kids as they came in for their well appointments, we reached out to our high-risk patients (asthmatics, immunocompromised patients and cardiac patients), and we organized influenza parties, which assembled large numbers of patients to receive influenza vaccines at the same times... These visits did not allow for discussions about the child's 5-year history of encopresis or behavioral problems. We all hope to be effective in reaching large numbers of patients.

It is undeniable that vaccinating against influenza is good for patients. As luck would have it, vaccinating against influenza is good for the financial health of your practice as well. For example, let's calculate monies generated for administering influenza vaccine for a doctor with a panel of 2,000 patients. We'll be conservative and consider that only 1,000 patients will get their influenza vaccine in your office. Some of the 1,000 not receiving the vaccine in your office might be infants younger than 6 months of age and not eligible for the vaccine, and some patients will go to retail-based clinics or refuse the vaccine.

I know you are all financially savvy and you have purchased influenza vaccines at the lowest possible price... The fee you receive has been set by your contract with each managed care organization and you are seeing a 10% to 25% profit.

If your practice purchased the vaccine at approximately $10, the profit on these 1,000 patients will range from $1,000 to $2,500. Additionally, you are receiving a vaccine administration fee, which should range from $14 to $30. This amounts to $14,000 to $30,000 for the 1,000 patients. Furthermore, in my practice, we do not vaccinate if a patient has not received a well visit in the last 12 months. If 100 patients who call for a flu shot ending up scheduling a well visit, you should be generating an additional $10,000. Bottom line: $25,000 to $42,500, which is not bad! Influenza can be devastating. Offering influenza vaccines to your patients is good for their health. It is good for the whole community. Giving influenza vaccine is also good for the financial health of your practice."

How to Protect Yourself During the Flu Season

Again, as with Dr. Oz, what really disturbs me here is the complete lack of safety discussion. In fact, he actually states that these vaccine-drives "do not allow for discussions" about a child's potty habits or behavioral problems — both of which could be very important clues or indicators that a child might be more prone to vaccine damage, and likely would be best served by having their gut flora checked before receiving another vaccine. For more information about this novel but promising way to help prevent vaccine damage, please see my interview with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride. Honestly, what's more important here? Making a buck or making sure that each and every patient is unlikely to be harmed by the treatment?

Avoiding a serious case of influenza is not about vaccination but more about maintaining a healthy, well functioning immune system. By following these simple guidelines, you can help keep your immune system in optimal working order so that you're far less likely to acquire the infection to begin with or, if you do get sick with the flu, you are better prepared to move through it without complications and soon return to good health.

  • Optimize Your Gut Flora. This may be the single most important strategy you can implement as the bacteria in your gut have enormous control of your immune response. The best way to improve your beneficial bacteria ratio is to avoid sugars as they will feed the pathogenic bacteria. Additionally, processed foods and most grains should be limited and replacing with healthy fats like coconut oil, avocados, olives, olive oil, butter, eggs and nuts. Once you change your diet, then regular use of fermented foods can radically optimize the function of your immune response.
  • Optimize your vitamin D levels. As I've previously reported, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best strategies for avoiding infections of ALL kinds, and vitamin D deficiency may actually be the true culprit behind the seasonality of the flu – not the flu virus itself. This is probably the single most important and least expensive action you can take. Regularly monitor your vitamin D levels to confirm your levels are within the therapeutic range of 50-70 ng/ml.
  • Ideally, you'll want to get all your vitamin D from sun exposure or a safe tanning bed, but you can also take an oral vitamin D3 supplement. According to the latest review by Carole Baggerly (Grassrootshealth.org), adults need about 8,000 IU's a day. Be sure to take vitamin K2 if you are taking oral vitamin D as it has a powerful synergy and will help prevent any D toxicity.

  • Avoid Sugar and Processed Foods. Sugar impairs the quality of your immune response almost immediately, and as you likely know, a healthy immune system is one of the most important keys to fighting off viruses and other illness. It also can decimate your beneficial bacteria and feed the pathogenic yeast and viruses. 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. If you are healthy then sugar can be consumed but the LAST thing you should be eating when you are sick is sugar. .
  • 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.
  • 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 Antibiotics. Examples include oil of oregano and garlic. These work like broad-spectrum antibiotics 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 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.

NVIC Advocacy Poster


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.