Every year millions of people in North America suffer from the common cold, sore throat and other more serious respiratory illnesses.
Influenza and pneumonia, one of the main complications of influenza, cause more than 5,000 deaths each year in Canada alone.
Every fall, older people and other high-risk groups are encouraged to get the flu shot. Congress approved Medicare funding for flu shots in 1993 on the assumption that the cost of the vaccine would be less than the hospital costs associated with flu complications. Was Congress Misled When It Authorized This $80 Million-A-Year Medicare Flu Shot Claim? Were the recipients deceived?
Although influenza is associated with more morbidity, hospitalizations, and death in “at-risk” populations, there are no adequate controlled studies demonstrating that influenza vaccine reduces influenza incidence in these groups (1).
Even if the flu vaccination was effective, it is not just about prevention – as naturopaths understand the word.
Influenza virus strains mutate, requiring a new vaccine every year. Technicians affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect influenza virus from swine and humans in foreign countries, e.g. B. China. CDC staffers then try to predict which viruses will infect people in the US in the following year – the CDC crystal ball. These CDC-selected viruses will be distributed to vaccine manufacturers earlier this year to produce influenza vaccines for fall administration.
How good is the CDC crystal ball?
Predicting which influenza viruses from China, say, will infect people in Toronto or Ohio a year later requires a lot of guesswork. The history of influenza vaccination is full of examples of mismatches between influenza viruses in the vaccine and those that actually infect people.
For example, during the 1994-1995 flu season, the CDC reported that 43% of isolated influenza specimens for the predominant virus (Type A (H3N2)) were dissimilar to that in the vaccine. Likewise, for another type A virus (H1N1), 87% of the samples were not similar to those in the vaccine. For influenza B, 76% of the isolated specimens were not comparable to those in the vaccine (2).
The CDC crystal ball was also wrong during the 1992-1993 influenza season when 84% of the isolated influenza specimens for the predominant virus (A(H3N2)) were dissimilar to those in the vaccine (3).
Despite their poor track record of predicting which influenza viruses will infect communities, the CDC claims that the influenza vaccine is “about 70% effective in preventing influenza in “healthy individuals under the age of 65” when “there is good agreement between vaccine and circulating virus” (4).
Depending on the study cited, the effectiveness of the vaccine actually ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 96%
(5) And as illustrated above, the CDC often finds it difficult to match vaccines with circulating viruses.
To justify their recommendation that all older people get flu shots, the CDC claims that although the vaccine is not very good at preventing influenza, “the vaccine is 50-60% effective at preventing hospitalization and pneumonia and 80% effective at preventing influenza.” of preventing death”. “(4)
This optimistic scenario is clouded by the results of the 1988-1992 $69 million Congressional-sponsored Medicare Influenza Vaccine Demonstration Project. This study, designed to promote Medicare-funded flu shots, found a disappointing 31-45% effectiveness “in preventing hospitalizations for all pneumonia” over three flu seasons (6). Results for the 1989-1990 season were described as “mixed at best,” with “Medicare payments … significantly higher for those who were vaccinated” (7).
Government agencies “calculated” an economic benefit from Medicare flu shots by manipulating numbers in a computer simulation until the desired results were achieved. The CDC reported that their theoretical assumptions do not include all vaccine-related costs. (6). Other recently published medical studies making similar economic claims for flu shots were funded by a vaccine manufacturer (8,9).
When you consider that more than 90% of deaths from pneumonia and influenza occur in people over the age of 65, but that about 65% of all deaths (for whatever reason) occur in this age group anyway, it is almost impossible to prove an influenza vaccination significantly increase the life expectancy of older people. In fact, a study of older Medicare patients in Ohio and Pennsylvania showed “no proven effect of the influenza vaccine in preventing death or limiting length of hospital stay” (10).
Health officials in other countries don’t share the US health officials’ enthusiasm for influenza vaccines. At an influenza symposium sponsored by the CDC, a British researcher stated: “[Influenza vaccine]recommendations are strong in certain countries but weak in others because not all authorities are convinced of the benefits of vaccination” (emphasis added. He deplored the “unsatisfactory situation” of the low efficacy of the influenza vaccine, which “compares unfavorably to other viral vaccines.”(14) Even CDC officials acknowledged that “influenza vaccines are still among the least effective immunizing agents available.” , and this appears to be particularly true for older recipients”.(5)
Congress and the American taxpayer have been duped over the supposed benefits of flu shots. Rather than being an effective prevention, evidence suggests flu shots may be useless. Although vaccines are endorsed and funded by federal and state governments, they only appear to benefit the companies that make them, the public health bureaucrats who sponsor them, and the medical workers who administer the flu vaccine.
1. Fiebach N, Beckett W. Prevention of adult respiratory infections: influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. Arch Intern med. 1994; 154:2545-57.
2nd update: Influenza activity – worldwide, 1995. MMWR 09/08/95; 44(35): 644-45, 651-52.
3. Update; Influenza Activity – US and World, 1993. MMWR 10/1/93; 42(38): 752-55.
4. Prevention and Control of Influenza: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 4/21/95; 44(RR-3).
5. Arden NH et al. Experiences in the use and efficacy of inactivated influenza vaccines in nursing homes. I; Kendal AP, Patriarca PA. Ed. Option to fight influenza. New York: Alan R. Liss 1986: 155-68
6. Final Results: Medicare Influenza Vaccine Demonstration Select States, 1988-1992. MMWR 13.8.93; 42(31): 601-4
7. Kidder d. Schmitz R. Cost and morbidity measures in analyzing vaccine efficacy based on Medicare claims. In: Hannoun C, et al. Ed. Options for controlling influenza II. Amsterdam: EXcerpta. Medica, 1993; 127-33.
8. Nichol KL et al. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of vaccination against influenza in elderly living in the community. N Engl J Med 1994; 331 912):778-84.
9. Nichol KL, et al. The effectiveness of vaccination against influenza in healthy, working adults. N Engl J Med 1995; 333 (140:889-93).
10. Strikas R. et al. Case-control study in Ohio and Pennsylvania of prevention of hospital admissions by influenza vaccination. In: Hannoun C. et al., ds. Options to combat influenza II. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica. 1993; 153-60.
Thanks to Dr. Anca Martalog N.D.