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Flu vaccine controversy: to vaccinate against the flu or not to vaccinate against the flu?

Every year, millions of people in North America suffer from colds, sore throats, and other more serious respiratory illnesses.

Influenza and pneumonia, one of the main complications of influenza, cause more than 5,000 deaths in Canada alone each year.

Each fall, the elderly and other high-risk groups are encouraged to receive the influenza vaccine (flu shots). Congress authorized Medicare funding for flu vaccines in 1993 in the belief that vaccination costs are less than hospitalization costs related to flu complications. Was Congress deceived when it authorized this right to the $ 80 million per year Medicare flu vaccine? Have the recipients been misled?

Although influenza is associated with more illness, hospitalizations, and deaths in “at risk” populations, there are no adequate controlled studies that demonstrate that influenza vaccine reduces the incidence of influenza in these groups (1).

Even if the flu vaccine was effective, it is not pure prevention, as natural health professionals understand the word.

Strains of the influenza virus mutate, requiring a new vaccine every year. Technicians affiliated with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collect influenza viruses from pigs and people in foreign countries, such as China. Then CDC staff try to predict which viruses will infect people in the US The following year – the CDC crystal ball. These CDC-selected viruses are distributed to vaccine manufacturers early in the year for the production of influenza vaccines for administration that fall.

How good is the CDC crystal ball?

Predicting which Chinese flu viruses, for example, will infect people in Toronto or Ohio a year later involves a lot of guesswork. The flu vaccine history is replete with examples of poor matches between the flu viruses in the vaccine and those that actually infect people.

For example, in the 1994-1995 influenza season, CDC reported that 43% of influenza isolates for the predominant virus (type A (H3N2)) were not similar to those for the vaccine. Likewise, for another type A virus (H1N1), 87% of the samples were not similar to those of the vaccine. For influenza B, 76% of the isolated samples were not similar to those of the vaccine (2).

The CDC crystal ball also got it wrong during the 1992-1993 flu season when 84% of influenza isolates for the predominant virus (A (H3N2)) were not similar to those for the vaccine (3).

Despite its poor track record in predicting flu viruses that will infect communities, CDC states that the flu vaccine is “approximately 70% effective in preventing flu in” healthy people under 65 years of age. if “there is a good compatibility between the vaccine and circulating viruses” (4).

Depending on the study cited, the efficacy of the vaccine actually ranges from a low of 0% to a high of 96%.

(5) And, as illustrated above, CDC often finds it difficult to match vaccines to circulating viruses.

To justify its recommendation that all older people receive flu vaccines, the CDC states that although the vaccine does not prevent influenza very well, “the vaccine can be 50-60% effective in preventing hospitalizations and pneumonia and 80% effective in preventing influenza. prevent death “. “(4)

This optimistic scenario is clouded by the results of the Congress-mandated Medicare flu vaccine demonstration project of $ 69 million in 1988-1992. This study, aimed at promoting Medicare-funded flu vaccines, found a disappointing 31% to 45% effectiveness “in preventing hospitalization for any pneumonia” over three influenza seasons (6). Results for the 1989-1990 season were described as “mixed at best,” with “Medicare payments … significantly higher for those who had been vaccinated” (7).

Government agencies “calculated” a financial benefit of Medicare flu vaccines by manipulating numbers in a computer simulation until desirable results were obtained. The CDC reported that its theoretical assumptions did not include all costs related to the vaccine. (6). A vaccine manufacturer has funded other recently publicized medical studies with similar economic claims for flu vaccines (8,9).

Considering that more than 90% of deaths from pneumonia and influenza occur in people 65 years of age or older, but that approximately 65% ​​of all deaths (from any cause) occur in this age group anyway, it is Nearly impossible to prove whether flu vaccines significantly increase life expectancy in older people. In fact, a study of elderly Medicare patients in Ohio and Pennsylvania showed “no demonstrated effect of the flu vaccine in preventing death or limiting the length of hospital stay.” (10)

International controversy

Health authorities in other countries do not share the enthusiasm of the US public health community for the flu vaccine. At the CDC-sponsored flu symposium, a British researcher stated: “The (flu vaccine) recommendations are strong in some countries but weak in others, as not all authorities are convinced of the benefits of immunization “(emphasis added. He deplored the” unsatisfactory situation “of low efficacy of the influenza vaccine, which” compares unfavorably with other virus vaccines “(14). Even CDC officials confessed that” vaccines against influenza are still among the least effective immunizing agents available, and this appears to be particularly true for elderly recipients. “(5)

Congress and the American taxpayer have been defrauded by the alleged benefits of flu vaccines. Rather than being effective prevention, evidence indicates that flu shots may be useless. Although endorsed and funded by the federal and state governments, vaccines appear to benefit only the companies that make them, the public health bureaucrats who promote them, and the medical personnel who administer the flu vaccine.


1. Fiebach N. Beckett W. Prevention of respiratory infections in adults: influenza and pneumococcal vaccines. Arch Intern med 1994; 154: 2545-57.

2. Update: Influenza Activity Worldwide, 1995. MMWR 9/8/95; 44 (35): 644-45, 651-52.

3. Update; Influenza Activity – United States and Worldwide, 1993. MMWR 1/10/93; 42 (38): 752-55.

4. Prevention and control of influenza: recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). MMWR 4/21/95; 44 (RR-3).

5. Arden NH et al. Experiences in the use and efficacy of inactivated influenza vaccine in nursing homes. I; Kendal AP, Patriarch PA. Eds. Option for the control of Influenza. New York: Alan R. Liss 1986: 155-68

6. Final Results: States Selected by Medicare Influenza Vaccine Demonstration, 1988-1992. MMWR 08/13/93; 42 (31): 601-4

7. Kidder d. Schmitz R. Measures of cost and morbidity in the analysis of vaccine effectiveness based on Medicare claims. In: Hannoun C, et al eds. Options for the control of Influenza II. Amsterdam: EXcerpta.Medica, 1993; 127-33.

8. Nichol KL et al. The efficacy and cost effectiveness of influenza vaccination among older people living in the community. N Engl J Med 1994; 331 912): 778-84.

9. Nichol KL, et al. The effectiveness of influenza vaccination in healthy working adults. N Engl J Med 1995; 333 (140: 889-93

10. Strikas R, et al. Ohio and Pennsylvania Case-Control Study of Preventing Hospitalization Through Influenza Vaccination. In: Hannoun C, et al, ds. Options for the control of Influenza II. Amsterdam: Excerpta Medica. 1993; 153-60.

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