Each year the influenza vaccine is a source of many questions and debates which can result from misinformation. Despite being available for over 50 years people still struggle with the decision of whether or not to get one.
Individuals who avoid getting the flu each year, but who have gotten the vaccine are likely to attribute their good fortune to the shot. Those who get the shot and wind up getting the flu anyway, doubt the effectiveness of the vaccine. Individuals who get the vaccine and become ill because of it are left somewhere in between wondering if getting the flu may or may not have been worse than the reaction. People are unlikely to get a deadly reaction to the vaccine, but people are also highly unlikely to die from the flu. Those who have experienced a substantial reaction to the shot are quite adamant that the annual push to get the influenza vaccine is questionable.
There are many things to take into account when joining the debate over influenza vaccines, but the major problem is that plenty of evidence used in these debates is somewhat anecdotal. Numbers provided by the CDC are very misleading and it is unethical to conduct a study on people which can cause death and permanent disability. In order to determine if vaccines are worth the risk large groups of people would have to be studied, then the study would be replicated effectively, and control groups be properly selected.
In the event enough people volunteered for a potentially deadly study it would be extremely costly. Instead of attempting to do that, researchers have to try to analyze numbers that are already obtained about how many people get sick with the flu and how many get the vaccine and stay healthy.
There are well-educated and well-intentioned scientists and medical professionals who stand on both sides of this issue. However, again much of the data is inaccurate because it is incomplete. Records are not kept consistently. To offer anyone truly solid advice on the flu vaccine all variables would have to be controlled, but it is impossible when people cannot be kept in enclosures or guaranteed to not have complicating and co-morbid illnesses.
While this article will not instruct anyone as to whether or not to get the vaccine, it may offer some information that will aid in making an educated decision.
When it boils down to numbers most people realize that statistics can be skewed to support any position. This can be done intentionally as well as inadvertently. Although any good scientist or statistician will do their best to collect data, they are still human and prone to bias and occasional error.
After a study is completed wide publication of findings often falls on the shoulders of people who have vested interests (as does the funding of the original research that is done).
People who question the vaccine highly are often of a naturalist perspective while those who promote it are frequently of a more medical one. It can be useful to consider the opinions of those who fall closer to the middle of the health continuum.
Chiropractors are practitioners of a treatment approach that has an Eastern and Western basis. Chiropractors use meridian theories from Oriental medicine to provide relief from a long list of health problems. Medical doctors in the United States typically refer patients to chiropractors for spinal, back and neck, problems. Chiropractic adjustments have been shown to be of great aid in many other areas of health.
Chiropractors are increasingly utilized in the United States and have become more widely accepted by strictly Western medical doctors. Physicians are continuing to refer patients to chiropractors and more and more insurance companies are covering chiropractic services. In other words, they are trusted professionals.
Chiropractic has a solid research backing and its’ growing popularity is likely helping that. So what do chiropractors think about the influenza vaccine?
It can be difficult to find this out quickly since they are often busy taking care of clients and do not provide flu shots from their offices. However, numerous publications by them critique the influenza vaccine vehemently.
Part of the vaccine information that chiropractors seem privy to is about severe reactions and illnesses that can result from getting the vaccine along with efficacy. This information is not widely publicized.
One wellness book published by a chiropractor states that “The U.S. Federal Government’s National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (NVICP) has paid out over $834 million to parents of vaccine-injured children and families of children who have died.” This is only children and only reasonably applies to the ages at which children are on regular vaccine schedules. Injuries and deaths to children from flu vaccines only represent a part of this number.
Nearly half of vaccine injury cases are never resolved, as it is very hard to tie some problems directly to vaccines according to CDC standards. Just as immunity is not gained instantaneously from vaccines, though typically within two weeks, complications resulting from them can take time to develop with the exception of severe allergic responses. Given this, the numbers the CDC discloses as injuries or deaths from vaccines are falsely low. Regardless of a person’s decision to obtain or avoid the influenza vaccine it is important to clear up some misinformation that exists.
The number of people who will die from the flu is also very low. It is easy to still get the flu even having gotten the vaccine. Is it better to risk dying from just one thing, especially when it is so unlikely to begin with, than to complicate matters in healthy individuals?
The numbers are hard to interpret because even fewer people die from strictly the flu. It is most deadly to people who have altered immune function or have pre-existing health problems. This is a gap in the statistics that is significant, and without a study, in which inhumane and unethical actions are taken, will continue to exist.
Deaths from pneumonia that developed secondary to the flu still get attributed to the flu. However, other factors are involved in getting pneumonia and steps can be taken to prevent this. Measures can easily be taken to help prevent both the flu and pneumonia, other than just the available vaccines. These measures can also support the immunity gained from vaccines for those who get them.
Individuals with lung disorders are much more likely to get severely ill from the flu and people over the age of 65 (without lung disorders) are 16 times more likely to die from the flu than any other age group. This information comes straight from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
The CDC advises pregnant women to get the vaccine, but how much immunity passes to the fetus is unknown and the immunity is short-lived, which is part of why flu vaccines are given annually. Each year the shot may contain different subtypes of the flu virus, 306 have been identified. If a mother effectively passes immunity to the fetus, it likely wears off before the child is even one year old and the child may not even be outside of the womb during a single flu season. It is disconcerting that the vaccines are given to women who are pregnant for said reasons and when they are bombarded with advice on avoiding exposure to toxins. Formaldehyde, aluminum, and Thimerosal (mercury) are three ingredients in flu vaccines which are well-established as being carcinogenic, and the latter two neurotoxic.
When a pregnant woman asked a reputable OB/GYN about whether or not to get the flu vaccine the doctor, who wishes to remain anonymous said, “The CDC says that I should tell you to get it, but I don’t think it is necessary.” Another doctor when prompted with the question, “Do you recommend for or against getting the flu vaccine?” replied, “I never recommend against it, what I prefer to say is that I don’t get them, the two ladies who work for me do not get them and none of us have gotten the flu in over 5 years.” He adds, “If you are really worried about getting the flu or have other serious health problems you should get it, but then you need to get it every year.”
The flu vaccine has a limited effect on immunity and if a person gets the vaccine one year and not the next but contracts a strain for which they had previously been inoculated their illness will be more severe. Naturally acquired immunity on the other hand lasts a lifetime and therefore does not pose this problem.
The only recommendation from either of these doctors was to take precautions such as washing hands, avoiding contact with those who are ill, and most importantly optimizing natural immune defenses. Yet, as doctors and staff, they have high contact with people who have the flu and still manage to remain healthy.
Flu symptoms include fever, chills, sore muscles, and cough. Mild reactions to flu vaccines include headache, fatigue, muscle pain, fever, runny nose, vomiting, sore throat, cough, and wheezing. These reactions occur in 30% of people who receive the vaccine. Severe cases such as anaphylactic shock or autoimmune disorders are rare, but debilitating and potentially deadly.
Reactions like Guillain-Barre syndrome have occurred as a result of flu vaccines though the CDC states it has not been proven to result from the vaccine since 1976, in which it increased by 1 in 100,000 cases. The CDC said that the specific reason for the increase that year remains unknown. That was the finding of an extensive scientific review conducted by the Institute of Medicine not conducted until 2003.
In 2011, according to the CDC the influenza vaccine killed 51 people, created 232 life-threatening events, resulted in 116 permanent disabilities, and over 700 hospitalizations. In that year it also caused 109 prolonged hospitalizations and over 4,000 emergency room visits. Well over 6,000 reports described as “not serious” were also made to the CDC. The National Vaccine Information Center reports that less than one percent of adverse reactions to the vaccine are ever even documented.
Numbers of people who die from the flu each year have decreased drastically since the vaccine’s approval in the 1950s but the decrease in flu mortality cannot be attributed to just the vaccines. Medical knowledge, interventions, and public health initiatives have all improved greatly in over 50 years as well.
The CDC shares a very selective amount of information with the general public, but warns as many people as possible each year that the flu can cause “death.” The truth is there are many threats in day to day life that are more likely to kill a person than the flu, or the flu vaccine for that matter.
Living makes a person more likely to die, because each day people are surrounded by dangers, but most of them are inconsequential (if looking just at numbers). Risk factors are important and should be taken into consideration before suggesting a person take part in a treatment or prevention measure which is dangerous.
A resident of the U.S. has a 20% chance of dying from heart disease and a 1 in 7 chance of dying from cancer, but this does not warrant putting everyone on heart medications. Doctors are not even taking time to inform patients about cancer prevention, but they often encourage patients to get the annual flu shot.
Approximately 25% of people get an annual flu vaccine. This year any given person has a 1 in 8 chance of getting the flu. So the odds of not getting it to begin with are pretty good. There is a 1 in 345,000 chance that the flu will turn deadly for a single person. To give readers an idea of this scale this is one person out of five football stadiums packed to capacity.
Like medications the influenza vaccines carry deadly risks but when a doctor prescribes a medication a patient gets a print off listing all of the things to watch for, as some adverse reactions can be life threatening. If a person is given a vaccine they are sometimes, not always, given a list of mild side effects that can be expected. Rarely is it made clear all of the severe adverse effects that might occur. This makes it much more difficult for such reactions to be accurately reported and recorded.
Vaccines might help to prevent death in particularly susceptible groups. Children under the age of two and adults over the age of 65 are most likely to suffer from complications of the flu. However, it is not advisable that any child under six months of age be given the influenza vaccine. Vaccines and all ingredients are not dosed differently according to body size or age.
The flu vaccine can be a useful tool in preventing illness, but it can also have costly and dangerous consequences. The decision over whether or not to get the shot should be an educated one rather than led by misinformation.
By Lara Stielow