The Health Corner Vol. 50 – Flu Vaccines

In recent years, people have been told by the powers that be that they must have a flu vaccine to ward off the ‘dangerous’ influenza virus. In particular, the H1N1 flu virus has garnered a great deal of attention, with reports of doom and gloom everywhere you look on TV and in other news media. I would like to discuss flu shots now and try to reach a conclusion as to whether they are necessary or if they even provide the protection they are claimed to give.

Influenza is actually a group of viruses that can cause several different complications, including pneumonia and myocarditis (inflammation of the heart). The symptoms come on quickly and can include headache, runny nose, chills, fever, muscle aches, dry cough, sore throat, and exhaustion. Young children are more susceptible to nausea and vomiting but it can occur in all age groups. The symptoms are usually short lived but in the elderly may last for several weeks. The functionality of the immune system primarily determines the length of time and severity of the infection. Healthy individuals with optimally functioning immune systems breeze through the process in two to three days. Individuals with stressed immune systems may suffer for several weeks because their defenses are not up to handling the invading organism.

It seems that every fall we are told by CDC (Center for Disease Control) that there is the possibility of an epidemic stemming from the ‘flu’ virus. Everyone is encouraged to get his or her flu shot as protection from this ‘deadly’ invader. And as a result, people flock to their doctor or to other vaccination sites to get these seemingly important inoculations, before really examining the pros and cons of doing so.

Since I have done some research on this subject, I would like to touch on a few of my concerns about flu vaccines. And I would like to start with how they are prepared for injection. The flu vaccine is prepared from the fluids of chick embryos that are injected with specific types of influenza viruses. Formaldehyde is then added to inactivate the virus and thimerosal (a mercury compound) is added to preserve the preparation. These substances are very unhealthy to the body. Formaldehyde is used to embalm dead bodies and is a known poison which has no business in a healthy blood stream. There has also been a lot of controversy regarding the use of mercury in vaccines and some lawmakers have passed legislation to stop its use. However, despite this it is still very commonly used in the development of many vaccines. In truth, mercury is one of the deadliest poisons we can be subjected to and yet people are being encouraged to have it injected into their bodies supposedly in order to keep them ‘healthy’.

Now let’s talk about the efficacy of the typical flu shot. There is no single virus that causes the flu, and there is no one flu vaccine that protects against all possibilities. A flu vaccine is designed to confer immunity only against the strains of flu that are expected to be most common and most serious in a given year. So, how is it decided which strains of flu to consider for the yearly vaccine? How are the particular strains determined? The CDC (Center for Disease Control) decides which strains of flu are likely to be prevalent in the upcoming fall based on the previous year’s statistics. The resultant vaccine usually addresses at least three different strains—sometimes four or five, but usually only three. The problem is that there are literally hundreds of strains of virus out there, perhaps even thousands, and the likelihood of determining the most likely candidates for any given year is difficult for even the best statistician to target. In actuality, there is no way of predicting with even the slightest degree of certainty what viruses are going to be the most likely to present six months down the road. It is an ‘educated guess’ at best. And even if the vaccine is a match to a prevalent virus, there is still only a 35% chance of the patient gaining any benefit from the vaccine. It still may not work after all.

And when we talk about the risks of taking a flu vaccine, a 35% chance of protection may not be enough reason to get the shot. The most common reactions are generally mild and usually begin within twelve hours of receiving the vaccination. They include fever, aches, and soreness, swelling, or redness at the injection site and usually last one to two days. But more severe problems like life-threatening allergic reactions, though rare, do occur. The most serious reaction to the flu vaccine is Guillain-Barre syndrome, which can cause paralysis to one degree or another. Most people recover at least partially but have some permanent disability from the disease. Less than 5% of cases result in death. This may affect one or two persons per million vaccinations.

Are the risks worth the seeming hit and miss protection that a flu vaccine might confer? I would ask that you consider the facts very carefully.

Next time, I will discuss the H1N1 virus and why it is causing a great deal of concern in the American population.

Until then, here’s to your good health!

Dr. Jon R. Link