The flu vaccine is commonly assumed to be an efficient mechanism for preventing the flu. However, it is much more difficult to estimate the unintended consequences of the influenza vaccine than most people realize. As such, there may be costly and dangerous consequences from getting a flu vaccine. In fact, the most responsible stance suggests one should educate themselves, and decide whether or not to get the flu vaccine.
People who are already ill are generally more susceptible to the Influenza virus. For this reason, people who are already ill or suffering from diminished immune system function may actually avoid death from the flu if they get the vaccine. Generally, children under age two, and adults over the age of 65, may benefit the most from the vaccine. But, physicians advise against any child under six months of age being inoculated. Surprisingly, there is only one universal dose of the vaccine given to everyone regardless of age or body size.
People receiving the vaccine are sometimes, but not always, given a list of side effects they might experience. But, rarely are all the possible side effects listed. This makes it that much more difficult to keep clear track of reactions and make sure that these reactions are accurately reported and recorded.
Indeed, the issue of under-reporting looms large when it comes to evaluating flue vaccine side effects. In the U.S.A., about 25 percent of the population gets a flu vaccine every year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that this year any one of us has a one in eight chance of getting the flu.
Regarding death, there is a one in 345,000 chance that the flu will turn deadly for any one person. Indeed, the number of people that die from the flu every year has decreased markedly since the vaccine was first approved in the 1950’s. However, the overall decrease in flu mortality cannot be attributed solely to the flu vaccines. So many aspects of our health have improved in the past 50 years that one cannot say exactly how effective the flu vaccine really is.
According to the CDC the influenza vaccine killed 51 people in 2011. That year the flu was also reported as creating 232 life-threatening events, resulting in 116 permanent disabilities, and requiring over 700 hospitalizations. 2011 also saw 109 prolonged hospitalizations for the flu, and over 4,000 emergency room visits.
While over 6,000 reports described as “not serious” were also made to the CDC in 2011, the National Vaccine Information Center reports that less than one percent of adverse reactions to the vaccine are ever even documented.
Historically, there have been glaring unintended consequences from the flu vaccine. For example, it has been ascertained that adverse reactions, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome, have occurred as a result of flu vaccines. However, the CDC says it has not been proven to result from the vaccine since 1976. The CDC still does not understand why that increase in Guillain-Barre syndrome occurred. This confusion of reports versus understanding why they occurred was documented by the Institute of Medicine in 2003.
Flu symptoms commonly include fever, cough, chills, and sore muscles. Mild reactions to flu vaccines include headaches, fatigue, muscle pains, fevers, runny nose, vomiting, sore throats, coughs, and wheezing. These reactions occur in 30 percent of people who receive the vaccine. Severe cases of anaphylactic shock or autoimmune disorders are rare, but potentially deadly.
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, Individuals who have lung disorders are more at risk of severe illness from the flu. Senior citizens in general are 16 times more likely to die from the flu than any other age cohort.
Since not many people die from the flu, and only the flu, the actual numbers are difficult to assess. In spite of confusion and lack of clear understanding, it seems the flu is most deadly to people who with altered immune system function or pre-existing health issues.
Critics of the flu vaccine point out that physicians and their staffs, who treat most flu victims in need of medical care, do not seem to be anymore at risk of getting the flu than anyone else. There may be reason to believe that the flu vaccine is not as important as we once thought it was. We still do not have a good understanding of the potential side effects of the flu vaccine.
The Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) functions as a national vaccine safety surveillance program co-sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). VAERS functions as a post-marketing safety surveillance program. They try to collect information about side effects that occur after the administration of vaccines licensed for use in the United States. Though awareness of vaccine issues is on the rise, nearly half of vaccine injury cases are never fully resolved because it is so difficult to link problems with the vaccines.
The Vaccine Injury Compensation Program has a Trust Fund that provides funding for the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program to compensate vaccine-related injury or death claims for certain vaccines administered since October 1, 1988.
The influenza vaccine continues to be a controversial issue with great debates regarding the efficacy of the flu vaccine, and its unintended consequences. The flu is not as big a problem as it used to be, but the elderly and the very young, as well as those with pre-existing conditions may do well to consider it as an option. However, after 50 years of use, no one can say conclusively that it provides any guarantees for one’s health and wellness.
By Alex Durig