The natural health website Natural News has challenged the recent scientific study published in the Lancet that claims the influenza vaccine to be 60 percent effective. They say that reporting on the study’s findings are misleading and that reporters are “massaging the numbers.”
Natural News describes itself as “a science-based natural health advocacy organization,” and their reporting about the Influenza vaccine’s effectiveness has been voluminous. In their October, 2011 article, Natural News gives its conclusion: “The ‘60% effectiveness’ claim is a total lie.”
Mike Adams, also known as the Health Ranger and Editor of naturalnews.com, points to the study in the Lancet.
The study titled “Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines: a systematic review and meta-analysis,” authored by Michael T. Osterholm PhD, outlines the clinical methods.
We searched Medline for randomised controlled trials assessing a relative reduction in influenza risk of all circulating influenza viruses during individual seasons after vaccination (efficacy) and observational studies meeting inclusion criteria (effectiveness).
The findings, described in Figure two of the study, identified that approximately 2.7 adults out of 100 get the flu to begin with. This 2.7 percent of adults that contract Influenza do so without receiving an influenza vaccination of any kind, with the remaining 97 percent flu-free. That control group was made up of over 13,000 unvaccinated test subjects.
In the study’s “treatment group,” adults were given the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine. Only 1.2 percent of this group caught the flu as compared to the control group.
Natural News had the following to say about the reported numbers:
- There is only a 1.5 percent difference
- That 1.5 percent is the difference of two groups, made up of thousands of people
- The difference between the groups is that 1.5 people out of 100 did not get the flu when treated with the trivalent vaccine
- That is not the same as reporting a 57 percent decrease in influenza infections
- Reporters are “massaging the numbers”
Natural News defends its criticism saying that sort of “statistical lying” is commonplace.
In a hypothetical example the writer states the reporting is popular in cancer treatment reporting, too.
A study might report, he suggests, that a drug for breast cancer is “50% effective.” What it could really mean is that two women in 100 contracted breast cancer in the study’s control, and only one in 100 contracted it in the treatment group.
“Thus,” he concludes,”the drug is only shown to work on 1 out of 100 women.”
Saying that one fewer woman contracted cancer over a study’s control is still only a difference of one in 100, he says.
But since 1 is 50% of 2, they will spin the stor[y] and claim a ‘50% breast cancer prevention rate!’
The Health Ranger is concerned that the average reader could respond to information like this by saying, “Wow, if I take this medication, there is a 50% chance this will prevent breast cancer for me!”
And yet that’s utterly false, says Adams. “In fact, there is only a 1% chance it will prevent breast cancer for you,” according to the study.
What Mike Adams wants readers to take away from this discussion seems to be the numbers. He insists that a vaccine that prevents only 1.5 additional people in 100 from getting the flu is negligible. The unvaccinated numbers—2.7 people in 100 according to the cited clinical study—are only greater by 1.2 people.
The flu vaccine, he argues, doesn’t work in “99 out of 100 people,” and he is challenging the influenza vaccine to a battle of proof. He believes that reports of the vaccine’s effectiveness is highly over reported.
The Lancet study makes no percentage based claims on the influenza vaccine’s efficacy anywhere near 60 percent. To be clear, the study itself shows all of the numbers, both un-vaccinated controls as well as vaccinated test groups, and reports their findings.
Adams acknowledges this. His complaint isn’t that only one and one half adults seem to gain a benefit from the vaccine. His complaint is what he calls “an estimate” of the number of side-effects in the same 100 people injected with the influenza vaccine.
He believes it is very likely that after injecting 100 adults with vaccines that contain adjuvants, you could get as many as seven or eight cases of serious side-effects.
Mr. Adams clarifies that these numbers are hypothetical and that the Lancet study did not contain statistics on side effects within the groups.
In a more recent article on the Natural News website, Ethan Huff reported on January 25th in an article titled “CDC admits to flu vaccine’s ineffectiveness as huge influx of flu victims fills hospitals across the country.”
In this article Huff states that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are “having to admit that the flu shot is not nearly as effective as we have all been told it is.”
Showcasing 24 states reporting a higher than normal influx of patients with “flu like symptoms,” Huff continues that, in comparison to previous years, the flu vaccine is being reported to be less effective.
Does this mean that the flu vaccine is just hype? Does the influenza vaccination cause more harm than help?
Readers should be cautious before drawing conclusions.
Though the Natural News website is filled with a large volume of information it uses to support its conclusions, the CDC, the World Health Organization (WHO), and international influenza reporting agencies insist that the vaccine is still “your best bet for avoiding influenza.”
Which side of the argument a reader chooses should be left to them, their research, and a well-informed decision. Mark Adams and Natural News, however, want people to know that they are challenging the effectiveness of flu vaccinations, and that, as far as they are concerned, reports are massaging the numbers.
By Matt Darjany