Hyping influenza deaths

At the same time BC healthcare workers are being forced to submit to flu shots or wear face masks during flu season, HealthLinkBC bolsters the mandate by declaring that influenza can lead to 8,000 Canadian deaths in years when influenza is very active. The last ‘pandemic’ occurred during the 2009/2010 influenza season, the peak occurring in the fall of 2009. But counter to the portended 8,000 influenza-related deaths, Statistics Canada records indicate only 1,890 such deaths occurred in 2009. This figure is reached by noting a total of 89,999 deaths related to the respiratory and circulatory systems during that year. (We’ve used the US CDC’s method of estimating annual influenza deaths by calculating 2.1% of the sum of all respiratory- and circulatory-related deaths.) Furthermore, since Statistics Canada reports a 2009 total of 238,418 deaths from all causes (nineteen categories in all), only 0.79% of 2009 deaths were influenza-related.

BC isn’t the only source of inflated influenza statistics. An October 2012 editorial in the Canadian Medical Association Journal suggests health care institutions should demand that all their healthcare workers receive flu shots. Referring to figures from the Public Health Agency of Canada it states that, annually, “between 4000 and 8000 deaths are attributed to influenza.” The National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) is slightly more discrete saying, “as many as 4,000 Canadians, mostly seniors, may die from pneumonia related to influenza…others may die from other serious complications of influenza.”

We find it interesting that calculating the 2008 proportion of deaths from all causes which are considered to be influenza-related results in almost exactly the same percentage as that for 2009: 0.80%. This result is likely due to the fact that, although the proportion of influenza-like illness which tested positive for influenza during the 2009/2010 season was almost double that of 2008/2009 (see VRAN Flu-Like-Watch table at http://vran.org/about-vaccines/specific-vaccines/influenza-vaccine-flu-shot/ ), the ‘pandemic’ affected younger people more than usual, and, as the US CDC states, “about 90% of influenza associated deaths occur among adults 65 years and older.”

The NACI ‘Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2012-2013’ includes a very long list of chronic health conditions which it claims increase risks associated with influenza. It also acknowledges that residents of nursing homes “often have one or more chronic medical conditions and live in institutional environments that may facilitate the spread of influenza.”, and that, for those 65 years and older, “mortality rates increase with increased age.” But, isn’t it also likely that seniors’ chronic illnesses put them at increased risk of contracting influenza followed by complications and death? If so, isn’t it likely that most deaths attributed to influenza should actually be attributed to preexisting chronic health conditions and, in some cases, unhealthy living conditions? In fact, although vaccine adverse events are said to be “rare”, isn’t it possible that annually repeated flu shots are one of the reasons “mortality rates increase with increased age.”?

Considering the dubious contention that deaths of influenza-infected, chronically ill individuals are caused by that infection, perhaps the official Canadian influenza death estimate that comes closest to the truth is that stated by the Community and Hospital Infection Control Association (CHICA): “The death rate for influenza in Canada is 500 to 1500 cases per year.” Of course, even the CHICA’s estimate assumes that the influenza diagnoses were confirmed by reliable lab tests. As explained on their website, specimens for viral cultures must be collected during the early febrile stage of infection; rapid influenza tests are often inaccurate. Not only that but an analysis of US influenza death statistics by Barbara Loe Fisher of the National Vaccine Information Center and Dr Joseph Mercola has found that, “The most influenza deaths recorded in a single year since 1979 was about 2,900 deaths and that was in 2009, the H1N1 swine flu pandemic year! (see table here)” Compare this figure – which enumerates deaths from influenza alone (ie without ‘complications’) and in a country with a population about ten times that of Canada – to the CHICA’s estimate of “500 to 1500” influenza deaths. Hmmm…still more paring needed?

Of course, by characterizing deaths of chronically ill, influenza-infected persons as due to influenza, the NACI has established for itself the basis upon which they’ve steadily increased the categories of recommended flu shot recipients over the past decade. In Table 4 of their ‘Statement on Seasonal Influenza Vaccine for 2012-2013’ they include: “adults (including pregnant women) and children with…cardiac or pulmonary disorders (including bronchopulmonary dysplasia, cystic fibrosis and asthma); diabetes mellitus and other metabolic diseases; cancer, immune compromising conditions (due to underlying disease and/or therapy); renal disease; anemia or hemoglobinopathy; conditions that compromise the management of respiratory secretions and are associated with an increased risk of aspiration; morbid obesity…”. But that’s not all, oh no! Added to this already-long list of recommended flu shot recipients are any persons who, due to their jobs, family duties, or volunteer work might in any way possibly shed influenza virus on the aforementioned high-risk persons. Tossed in are “all children 6 to 59 months…healthy pregnant women” and, “aboriginal peoples [apparently with no exclusions and whether healthy or not].” For good measure, in their top-of-the-page Summary, they add: “NACI also encourages influenza vaccine for all Canadians, because significant illness and societal costs also occur in people not considered to be at high risk of complications.” (But no mention of the wasted tax dollars spent on universal shots that the most recent rigorous science finds near-useless.)

Completely ignoring the exhaustive review of Osterholm et al, the NACI further recommends healthcare providers tell clients, “Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent influenza.” We suggest this may sway some people to believe healthy lifestyle practices are unnecessary once they’ve had their shot. By so doing, flu shot propaganda would be yet another possible cause of death.

Further reading:

Flu deaths reality check – CBC’s in depth report about hugely misleading estimates of 2,000 to 8,000 annual influenza deaths “a statistical guess that comes out of a mathematical formula that makes a range of assumptions about death and flu.”