Every year studies are conducted evaluating the effectiveness of flu vaccines. Every few years the Cochrane Collaboration reviews the scientific literature on the effectiveness of flu vaccines. And every review shows that flu vaccines are relatively ineffective. Despite these findings, vaccine manufacturers and government committees continue to recommend flu vaccines for the entire population.
The July 2010 Cochrane Database Review of 50 studies of flu vaccine use in healthy adults showed once again that these vaccines are not effective for those adults (Jefferson 2010). This confirms a previous review from 2007. That review looked at 274 studies. Both these reviews revealed that flu vaccine had no effect on complications such as pneumonia or on hospital admissions. And flu vaccine reduced the symptoms of illness by only a modest one percent.
The authors of these reviews make an interesting observation. Industry-funded studies were more likely to be cited by other articles and the media. And publicly-funded studies were much less likely to show results favorable to vaccines. Don't forget that if a vaccine manufacturer study does not show the results that the industry wants, they will discard the study.
The authors also note widespread misrepresentation of the conclusions that were reached in these reviews. They berate official government articles that misquote their findings to justify actions previously taken to recommend flu vaccines. Articles from the Centers for Disease Control that quote the Cochrane reviews misrepresent the efficacy of the flu vaccine to serve an agenda that promotes the use of these vaccines. Their conclusion: "The CDC authors clearly do not weight interpretation by quality of the evidence, but quote anything that supports their theory."
The final conclusion of these authors is that their results should discourage the use of flu vaccine in healthy adults as a routine health measure.
Previous reviews of other age groups have shown similar ineffectiveness of the flu vaccine. The vaccine is ineffective in babies and in the elderly. The Cochrane review of flu vaccines in children less than two years of age showed the vaccine had no protective effect compared to placebo (Jefferson 2008). Similarly in the elderly, who are more susceptible to complications of the flu, studies were unable to show effectiveness (Rivetti 2006).
Finally, the flu vaccine itself causes notable adverse effects. For example the swine flu vaccine campaign of 1976 was halted because of a significant incidence of paralysis as a direct effect of the vaccine. This was an H1N1 vaccine similar to the swine flu H1N1 vaccine that is included in this year's flu shots. And the new H1N1 vaccine is showing similar problems.
There are much more effective ways to prevent the flu. Taking immune system enhancers such as vitamins A and D supplements and medicinal mushrooms like cordyceps, reishi and shiitake, as well as lactoferrin and immunoglobulins contained in whey powder or colostrum, will maintain a strong immune system. All of these supplements are available at most health food stores. There are also excellent natural treatments for the flu (Neustaedter 2005).
Jefferson T O, Rivetti D, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, and Demicheli V.. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2007 (2): CD001269.
Jefferson,T O, Rivetti A, Harnden A, Di Pietrantonj C, and Demicheli V.. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008 (2): CD004879.
Jefferson,T O, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, Bawazeer GA, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2010 (7): CD001269.
Neustaedter R. FLU: Alternative Treatments and Prevention. 2005. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA.
Rivetti D, Jefferson T, Thomas R, Rudin M, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, and Demicheli V.. Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 (3): CD004876.
About the author
Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD, has practiced and taught holistic medicine for more than thirty years in the San Francisco Bay area, specializing in child health care. He is a licensed acupuncturist and doctor of Chinese medicine, author of The Holistic Baby Guide, Child Health Guide and The Vaccine Guide. Visit his website, www.cure-guide.com, to register for a free newsletter with pediatric specialty articles and follow him on Facebook, username cureguide1 or Dr. Randall Neustaedter, OMD.