Flu Shots For The Elderly Are Ineffective
(OMNS, October 23, 2008) Have the elderly people in your family missed their flu shot? If so, they may have made the right decision. The New York Times recently reported that "A growing number of immunologists and epidemiologists say the vaccine probably does not work very well for people over 70," and that previous studies may have shown "not any actual protection against the flu virus but a fundamental difference between the kinds of people who get vaccines and those who do not . . . simply because they went to the doctor more often." (1)
Influenza vaccination has been widely touted even though evidence of effectiveness is lacking. One large scientific review looked at 40 years' worth of influenza vaccine studies. It found that flu shots were ineffective for elderly persons living in the community, and flu shots were "non-significant against influenza" for elderly living in group homes. (2) The authors of another major review "found no correlation between vaccine coverage and influenza-like-illness attack rate." (3) Author Dr. Thomas Jefferson said, "The vaccine doesn't work very well at all. Vaccines are being used as an ideological weapon. What you see every year as the flu is caused by 200 or 300 different agents with a vaccine against two of them. That is simply nonsense." (4) Indeed, he commented, "What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth." (5)
Some still claim that flu vaccinations, even though they do not prevent the flu, may help prevent more serious complications such as pneumonia, so dreaded and so often deadly for the elderly. But the authors of the study discussed in the NY Times article specifically noted that "influenza vaccination was not associated with a reduced risk of community-acquired pneumonia." (6)
As with all immunizations, flu shots can have harmful side effects. Vaccines may contain, among other things, ingredients such as mercury and aluminum, which are widely regarded as toxic. The elderly are more likely to be injured by, or even die from, flu vaccine side effects. Such incidents may remain unreported by hospitals or physicians. One man, aged 76, had a flu shot and immediately had to be hospitalized for a week. When family members suggested to the hospital staff and physicians that it was probably a reaction to the shot, their views were disregarded. Two years later the man had another flu shot, and was promptly hospitalized a second time. Family members once again said it was a reaction to the flu shot. The hospital said it was a low-grade infection, probably a bladder infection. The man died.
There are indications that vaccination side effects are underreported. The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System receives around 11,000 serious adverse reaction reports each year, mostly from doctors. (7) FDA states that "VAERS tracks serious vaccine reactions, not common fevers and soreness from shots. Serious reactions include death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization, and disability resulting from a vaccine." (8) However, FDA admits that they probably receive reports for only about 10 percent of all adverse vaccine reactions. (9) The National Vaccine Information Center estimates the reporting percentage to be far lower, perhaps under 3 percent. (10)
The exact contents of each year's flu shot is an educated guess. Sometimes this guess is wrong, as it was for 2008, where the vaccine "doesn't match two of the three main types of flu bugs now in circulation. . . . The predominant type A flu virus this year is the H3N2 strain; 87% are the "Brisbane" strain. And 93% of this year's type B flu bugs are from the "Yamagata" lineage. The current flu vaccine's H3N2 component is the "Wisconsin" strain; the type B component is from the "Victoria" lineage." (11) Even when the guess is correct, flu viruses frequently mutate and become resistant all over again.
The flu vaccine, notes the NY Times, has not been double-blind, placebo-control tested. Faith in vaccination appears to be greater than the scientific evidence to justify vaccination. Senior citizens already take far more medications than any other segment of the population. The elderly have weaker immune systems. The risk of immunization adverse effects rises accordingly. Increased side effect danger, along with low effectiveness, is a bad combination.
Is their an available alternative? Yes, there may be: give the elderly more nutrients, rather than more needles. Older people often have inadequate diets. With ageing and illness, their bodies' need for vital nutrients goes up, yet frequently their intake actually goes down.
Nutritional supplements help fight the flu. Vitamins and minerals have been shown to significantly reduce incidence and duration of influenza. This was already known back when many of today's elderly were still middle-aged. 32 years ago, twice Nobel-Prize winner Linus Pauling reviewed the nutritional literature and determined that high doses of vitamin C reduce the frequency and shorten the severity of influenza. (12) Orthomolecular (nutritional) physicians have repeatedly confirmed this. Robert F. Cathcart, MD, successfully treated thousands of viral-illness patients with massive doses of vitamin C. (13) Vitamin D also increases resistance to influenza (14), as do the minerals selenium and zinc. (15)
With good nutrition bolstered with supplemental vitamin and mineral intake, the human body's natural defenses are strengthened and can rapidly adapt to resist new flu strains. Clinical evidence indicates that nutrition is more significant that vaccination. Malnutrition is far more dangerous than not getting vaccinated.
No, there is not a vaccination for every illness. It might be nice if there were, but no shot can make up for poor nutrition.
Over-reliance on vaccinating the elderly ignores their fundamental problems of poor diet and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. These are underlying reasons for a susceptible immune system. Supplemental nutrition is the "other" immune system booster. It is time to use it.
(1) Goodman B. Doubts grow over flu vaccine in elderly. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/09/02/health/02flu.html September 2, 2008.
(2) Rivetti D, Jefferson T, Thomas R et al. Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jul 19;3:CD004876.
(3) Jefferson T, Rivetti D, Rivetti A et al. Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines in elderly people: a systematic review. Lancet. 2005 Oct 1;366(9492):1165-74.
(4) Gardner A. Flu vaccine only mildly effective in elderly. HealthDay Reporter, Sept 21, 2005.
(5) Rosenthal E. Flu vaccination and treatment fall far short. International Herald Tribune, September 22, 2005.
(6) Jackson ML, Nelson JC, Weiss NS, Neuzil KM, Barlow W, Jackson LA. Influenza vaccination and risk of community-acquired pneumonia in immunocompetent elderly people: a population-based, nested case-control study. Lancet. 2008 Aug 2;372(9636):398-405.
(7) National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161, 703-487-4650, 703-487-4600.
(9) KM Severyn in the Dayton Daily News, May 28, 1993 cited at http://www.chiropracticresearch.org/NEWSVaccinations.htm
(10) "Investigative Report on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System." National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), 512 Maple Ave. W. #206, Vienna, VA 22180.
(11) DeNoon DJ. Most influenza strains do not match current vaccine. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/570050 February 11, 2008. Also: Joe Bresee, MD, chief, epidemiology and prevention branch, CDC Influenza Division, Atlanta. CDC news conference, Feb. 8, 2008.
(12) Pauling L. Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu. Freeman, 1976.
(13) Cathcart RF. Vitamin C, titrating to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Med Hypotheses. 1981 Nov;7(11):1359-76. http://www.doctoryourself.com/titration.html
(14) Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, Holick MF, Grant WB, Madronich S, Garland CF, Giovannucci E. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006. Dec;134(6):1129-40.
(15) Girodon F, Galan P, Monget AL et al. Impact of trace elements and vitamin supplementation on immunity and infections in institutionalized elderly patients: a randomized controlled trial. MIN. VIT. AOX. geriatric network. Arch Intern Med. 1999 Apr 12;159(7):748-54.
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A humorous look at flu vaccine: http://www.thinktwice.com/Flu_Farce.mov