Health officials in denial over uselessness of flu shots

October 23, 2008

Dr. Danuta Skowronski, an epidemiologist at the B.C. Centre for Disease Control, says the benefits of the flu vaccine still outweigh the risks for the vast majority of people – CBC story here. Perhaps she hasn’t heard that a growing number of studies now show that flu shots are highly overrated; she and other health officials keep up a religious fervor in their annual promotion of the practice no matter how much evidence accumulates.

An October, 2008 study in Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine looking at influenza vaccination of UK children has found no benefits for hospitalizations or doctor visits. Vaccine effectiveness in the study was only 7% to 52% for children aged six months to 5 yrs. Commenting on this study, Dr Peter Szilagyi, a paediatrician at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, stated: “Significant influenza vaccine effectiveness could not be demonstrated for any season, age or setting.”

Another very recent study which examined data from a 2003 Canadian health survey of more than 134,000 people found patients with asthma vaccinated against influenza were 80% more likely to experience exacerbations requiring use of inhalers or nebulizers than unvaccinated controls.

Since 2005, a growing awareness of the uselessness of influenza vaccination has been filtering out to the public. A number of studies now show that at best influenza vaccine is minimally effective – at worst it is useless and can cause serious health problems.

When Dr. Tom Jefferson led the team of researchers/reviewers (2005) at the Cochrane Vaccines Field on an exhaustive review of the world medical literature, they scrutinized all the studies that had been done on influenza vaccination and found that the benefits were ‘wildly overestimated”. They found that flu vaccines have little or no effect on things such as hospital stay, time off work, or even death resulting from influenza and its complications — especially in elderly people.

Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence‘, Dr. Jefferson’s follow-up report encapsulating the team’s findings, was published in volume 333 of the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in October 2006:

Looking at the push to vaccinate all babies with influenza vaccine starting at 6 months of age, Dr. Jefferson’s team reviewed the existing literature on flu vaccination of children and said, “In children under 2 years inactivated vaccines had the same field efficacy as placebo.”

BMJ rapid responses to Dr. Jefferson’s article, ‘Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence’, can be seen here.

Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) found no correlation between an increase in flu vaccine coverage over the past two decades and a decrease in influenza-related deaths among the elderly. The percentage of elderly Americans who got annual flu shots rose steadily from around 15% before 1980 to 65% in 2001. The dramatic increase in coverage should have led to a dramatic drop in flu deaths. “This is not what we found,” said researcher, Lone Simonsen, PhD.

A Canadian Study from the University of Alberta, published in the September 1, 2008 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care, calls into question previous studies that found a substantial benefit from influenza vaccines. They found a “healthy user” effect that confounded test results, meaning that those who accept vaccinations are likely to be more health conscious than those who don’t. In fact, it’s most likely that factors which are likely to decrease chances of having been vaccinated – low socioeconomic status and frailty – also contribute to poor natural immunity and it’s the latter that is the main reason for flu deaths, not lack of vaccination.

A Sept. 25, 2008 study from the US found that ‘Influenza vaccination may save many fewer older patients’ lives than generally claimed’. Commenting on this study, Dr. Tom Jefferson and his colleague Carlo Di Pietrantoni, Ph.D. both of the Cochrane Vaccines Field said these “cherished” vaccination policies may need to be revisited. “We must never again allow layers of poor research to mask substantial uncertainty about the effects of a public-health intervention and present a falsely optimistic view of policy.”

In Canada, Fluwatch is a public health program which gathers and reports on the relative incidence of influenza cases throughout the year. Its data come from “sentinel laboratories” located throughout Canada which receive and test samples from patients with influenza-like illness (ILI) submitted by their “sentinel practitioners”. Laboratory testing year in and year out shows that the majority of influenza like illnesses are NOT associated with the influenza virus, but arise from other pathogens unaffected by the vaccine. On average, the influenza virus is associated with only 10% of people presenting with flu-like illnesses.

VRAN FLU-like-WATCH

For the last five years, from the end of August of one year to the end of August the following year, Fluwatch archives show:

2007/2008 – 12256 tests positive for influenza vs 124953 total samples tested

2006/2007 – 8133 tests positive for influenza vs 100864 total samples tested

2005/2006 – 7422 tests positive for influenza vs 87303 total samples tested

2004/2005 – 12879 tests positive for influenza vs 101258 total samples tested

2003/2004 – 11435 tests positive for influenza vs 92998 total samples tested

5 yr totals 52125 tests positive for influenza vs 507376 total samples tested

The 5 yr average incidence of influenza, 2003 to 2008, was 10.3% of all influenza-like illness.

More Articles & Links: