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by Jessica Whited, R.N.
With hospitals mandating the flu shot and government agencies recommending it to be given to children as young as six months old every year for the rest of their lives (1), many would assume it must be proven to prevent most respiratory illness and is completely safe, right? Let’s look at some facts, and then you can decide for yourselves.
First of all, there are many different types of viruses that cause respiratory illness; the influenza virus, or the flu virus, only causes about 5 to 15 percent of those illnesses in a year (2). Next, the flu shot has three different types of the flu virus in it, but there are many more different types, or strains, of the flu virus. So the amount of flu-like illnesses the flu shot can prevent is very limited. It has to be an influenza virus, and it has to be one of the three strains in the flu shot or very closely related to them (3).
Additionally, the flu strains change constantly and can change even in the middle of the flu season, yet the flu vaccine has to be developed months before the flu season. When the experts pick which flu strains to put in the flu vaccine, they are picking three strains they think will be most dominate in the months ahead, and they have their fingers crossed that they don’t change (1).
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Of course, a key point when deciding to get the flu shot is will it even work? I mean, why put something in your body if it doesn’t actually prevent disease? Within the information about the flu vaccine Flulaval, it says there have been no trials showing a decrease in the flu after being vaccinated with it (4). In addition, the Center for Disease and Control (CDC) stated in a meeting that they do not do follow up to see how many people who received the flu shot actually got the flu (5).
The Cochran Collaboration, a non-profit organization, took hundreds of studies on the flu shot, and here are some of the conclusions they came to:
- The flu shot was very ineffective, only decreasing the number of participants who got the flu by 6 percent. (6)
- The vaccine did not change the number of people hospitalized or the number of people missing work. (6)
- For every one million people who receive the flu shot, one case will develop a horrible neurological disease called Guillain-Barre syndrome caused from the flu vaccine. (6)
- There is no evidence that the flu vaccine prevents complications in pneumonia or prevents transmission. (8)
- The review of this study did not support universal immunization in healthy adults. (6)
- After reviewing 274 studies, they found that studies funded by companies that make a profit off of the flu shot were more likely to be published in big-name, prestigious journals than studies funded by public sources. In addition, the studies that showed the most favorable conclusions regarding the flu shot were from the studies funded by the industries that would profit from the flu vaccine. (6)
After reading all that, it makes sense that when vaccine production is low, we still don’t see an increase in flu deaths (7). It also clears up why the CDC is so vague on how many people die from the flu, ranging their numbers from 3,000 to 49,000 (8). It is also important to note that those numbers are not only people who die from the flu alone, but people who already had a chronic illness and the flu contributed to their death (8). Of the people whom the flu was a possible contributor to their death, 90 percent are the elderly (9).
Finally, I would think an important issue in whether to get the flu shot or not would be is it safe? To do that, there must be long-term studies that show if we get a flu vaccine year after year for the rest of our lives that there will be no negative effects from it. Unfortunately, there are no such long-term studies evaluating the flu vaccine’s health effects (15). If you read the pamphlet sent with the flu vaccines, the clinical studies range from three days to six months (4, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14). They follow the short-term effects, most of which sound like flu symptoms (4, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14). Yet, some of the events reported after the vaccines were approved are much more serious, such as the previously mentioned Guillain-Barre syndrome, along with thrombocytopenia, lymphadenopathy, Bell’s palsy, dyspnea, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, encephalopathy, limb paralysis, and Leigh syndrome, just to name a few (4, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14). As of July of 2012, there had been 84,000 cases of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries, and deaths following influenza vaccination reported to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) (16).
That doesn’t sound very safe to me. When looking even further into some of the ingredients in the flu shot, it gets even more disturbing. One of them is formaldehyde, which has been named a cancer-causing agent by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC). Also, in 2011, the National Toxicology Program, an interagency program of the Department of Health and Human Services, named formaldehyde as a known human carcinogen in its 12th Report on Carcinogens (19). The World Health Organizations (WHO) reported similar findings (20).
Another ingredient in flu vaccines is mercury. One study took two groups of children, with one group receiving a mercury-free tetanus shot while the other group received the tetanus shot with mercury. The children in the group that received the tetanus shot with mercury had significantly increased odd ratios for autism, mental retardation, speech disorders, personality disorders, and thinking abnormalities based on the adverse events reported to VAERS (21). In 1999, the EPA and the FDA directed the vaccine manufacturers to take mercury out of all childhood vaccines. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) also recommended such measures (16). Yet, many influenza vaccines in the U.S. still contain the mercury preservative, some in amounts above the federal safety guidelines (16).
Before government agencies recommend the flu shot for the rest of our lives and before hospitals start mandating that their employees receive the flu shot for the rest of their professional careers, more studies need to be conducted. Until then, the guinea pigs are the children of this generation and our health care workers. I think Barbara Loe Fisher, of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), was correct when she stated, “It will be a national experiment that could have a far higher financial and long term health price tag then is currently appreciated” (18).
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