Tis the season for falling leaves, falling temperatures, and of course with cooler days and nights ahead comes coughing, sneezing and the like. It’s called flu season, and it can often times be packed with a punch. But, just because you may have a fever, headache, aches, pains, cough and a runny nose, how can you even be sure it’s the flu and warrants a vaccine?
And just because obviously the majority of physicians would agree with the CDC recommendations that all Americans be vaccinated, is that the answer? Is the vaccine truly effective? Does it work? What does the evidence show about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine when vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are compared?
Based on an article by Vera Sharav for the Alliance for Human Research Protection, the evidence is clear, and it shows little or no benefit for influenza vaccinations.
According to the article, the negative finding of a comprehensive review of 50 published reports by the highly credible Cochrane Collaboration should discourage healthy people from getting a flu shot:
“The results of this review seem to discourage the utilization of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure.
As healthy adults have a low risk of complications due to respiratory disease, the use of the vaccine may be only advised as an individual protection measure against symptoms in specific cases.”
How can you be sure it’s the flu?
The author claims that over 200 viruses can cause influenza and influenza-like illness which produce the same symptoms. So, unless you have laboratory tests, doctors cannot tell the two illnesses apart. Both last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness.
At best, the author states, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses. Each year, the World Health Organization recommends which viral strains should be included in vaccinations for the forthcoming season.
This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.
What does the evidence show about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine when vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are compared?
Authors of this review assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost but caused one case of Guillian-Barré syndrome (a major neurological condition leading to paralysis) for every one million vaccinations. Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies and four had no funding declaration.
So basically, company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products and some of the evidence comes from trials carried out in ideal viral circulation.
Therefore, the truth may be skewed in favor of what the company sponsoring the trial wanted the results to be.