Monday, February 28, 2011

Should you get the flu shot? Probably not

There are good and valid reasons to get the annual seasonal flu shot, especially if you have an underlying medical condition such as asthma, heart disease, or a weakened immune system.

But, for the vast majority of healthy people (under the age of 65), there are also good and valid reasons NOT to get the annual influenza shot. Although some are distrustful of all vaccines, there are specific reasons to be wary of the influenza vaccine;

these include:

Complications related to the flu shot. Many people report feeling sick after getting the flu shot, and children have been reported to suffer from febrile seizures. Reports of narcolepsy and adverse reactions to the flu shot appear to be on the rise.

The flu shot is not entirely effective. You can still get the flu, even if you are vaccinated. So, while you incur the risks for adverse side effects you may still get the flu.

*  The effectiveness of the anti-flu treatment Tamiflu has been called into question, and it appears that it does not lessen hospital stays.  Further it appears some of the results of the trials were intentionally withheld when they painted a picture of doing exactly the opposite of the intended affect.  There was one trial that seemed to suggest that Tamiflu lessened the ability of the immune system to fight influenza. 

Lack of legal recourse (civil) especially in the US if you are harmed by the flu shot.  A US Supreme Court decision (BRUESEWITZ et al. v . WYETH LLC) sided with vaccine makers in a case involving a Pennsylvania girl who was denied a claim in vaccine court and was not allowed for file a claim in civil court. The fact is that if you lose your case in “vaccine court” you will have no further legal recourse. Some, including Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, argue that there are now no serious consequences for vaccine manufacturers if they produce a faulty product and that no other industry in America has such a comprehensive “get out of jail free” card.

Most healthy people do not require hospitalization for the flu, even though suffering from the flu is uncomfortable.

Washing your hands frequently, eating healthy, and getting plenty of sleep are very good ways to avoid getting the flu.

The majority of health care providers (approximately 60%) choose NOT to get the flu shot every year. Even the risk of termination of their job is not great enough of a threat to convince them to risk getting the flu shot.  [ Edit note: in 2012, the numbers have improved.  One study shows that 60% + of health care providers are now getting the flu shot.  But, this improvement has happened after employers threatened termination for non-compliance.   The fact that so many health care providers are still leery of getting the flu shot speaks volumes. ]

Recommendations for getting the flu shot vary widely from country to country. For example, most countries in Europe only recommend those aged 65 or over get the flu shot (with no underlying medical condition).

The odds of dying from the flu are minuscule. The CDC’s numbers for mortality are suspect, at best. Influenza is grouped with pneumonia statistics, thus blurring any meaningful comparisons. But, even the CDC admits that most deaths occur among the elderly population, yet still insist that everyone (over 6 months of age) get the flu shot. The is especially at odds with reality, given that pediatric deaths associated with flu are now at historically low levels.

Valid reasons to mistrust government and pharmaceutical pronouncements, including the influence of money in the political process. The recent case of trial tests of the antibiotic drug “Trovan” on African children, allegedly without parental consent, illustrates problems with the industry. Recent news reports about past horrors amplify the point. *

Valid reasons to mistrust media outlets. Many newspapers, web sites, and television news programs are beholden to vast pharmaceutical advertising dollars. Anyone who questions the necessity of flu shots is instantly branded a kook or “dangerous.” An outlet that does not follow the party line risks losing advertising dollars to other programs that are not so choosy about what they publish.

Not all flu shot formulas are the same. Risks vary by formula. The nasal flu shot, Flumist, contains a live, albeit weakened, influenza virus.

So, we will continue to remain skeptical of the CDC's blanket recommendation that everyone over the age of 6 months get the flu shot.

As with all medical decisions, you should ask your doctor if you should get the flu shot. But, also ask him/her if they have gotten the flu shot themselves.

Hopefully they will be honest with you.

See also: Flu Shots: Panacea or Propaganda?

*AP IMPACT: Past medical testing on humans revealed

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