2012-2013 Influenza, To Vaccinate or Not?

Not to be trite and borrow from Shakespeare, but “to vaccinate or not,” that is the question. For most Americans watching the barrage of daily newscasts hyping fear and frenzy about the flu, vaccination is not a question, it is a must.

A friend recently posted on Facebook, “who would be crazy enough not to vaccinate?” At the time, I resisted outing myself, but now I just simply cannot take another broadcast glaringly omitting any research questioning both the efficacy and safety of flu vaccines.

So who would be crazy enough not to vaccinate? ME. For those who know me, no surprise, but to the rest of the world, I am outing myself. I am one of those. I am one, who when confronted with controversy, proceeds with caution, particularly when it comes to prophylactic medicine. I do my homework and then make an informed decision.

Why Vaccinate?

  • There is a flu pandemic
  • The vaccine is 62% effective
  • There is a risk of death, high fevers
  • Potential missed days of work and school
  • To prevent the further spread of the virus
  • It is deemed safe by experts

So, Why Not?

Because after researching health and wellness for the past 8 years, I am skeptical. I am skeptical of the scientific studies constantly being thrown at us. I am skeptical of anything over-hyped by the media. I am skeptical of fear mongering and I am skeptical anytime I am told to do something because everyone else is doing it.

To me this recent flu pandemic is no different than every other flu pandemic where we are whipped into mass hysteria. Remember the swine flu scare of 2009? I remember standing outside my kids’ school being berated by parents for daring to challenge doctors and our government…for questioning the safety of the vaccine.

At one point in my life I was very sick. I know what it feels like and I sympathize with anyone with chronic illness. But I have worked hard to clean out my body and strengthen my immune system and I have mostly done it by resisting anything that is not natural.

So with the latest frenzy, rather than standing back and advocating what some might call pseudo-science that can be found throughout the internet, I instead decided to look at the science. What I found was alarming.

Am I going to get the flu? Who knows? If I vaccinate? Who knows? So, the question becomes is the vaccine worth it? Is it worth injecting into the body a mix of seemingly toxic chemicals? In our health-paranoid world, I find the mad dash to inject so counter-intuitive. It is easier to inject than to question. To me, the ingredients in the shots seem to have far greater potential to cause long-term health consequences as opposed to their perceived short-term health benefits.

Go to the CDC website. Check out the ingredients and you will find formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, and thimerasol, otherwise known as mercury. Yes, mercury is still in the influenza vaccine! Most people receive the multi-dose shot and with it a whopping 25,000ppb of mercury, over 100 times the level considered safe by the EPA! “Thimerasol-free” single dose vaccines are available, but while significantly less than the multi-dose shots, they are not mercury free.

There is 25,000 ppb mercury given in the flu shot containing 25 mcg of thimerosal as a preservative.

In the single dose vaccines, thimerasol is under .3mcg so it qualifies as “trace” but .3mcg is equal to 300ppb, which exceeds 200ppb, the EPA limit. Yes, there are arguments that the mercury in thimerasol is ethyl mercury and not methyl, which means the mercury leaves the body faster and does not have the same neurological effects. However, there was obviously enough research to ban this substance from childhood vaccines in 1999, and there was obviously enough pressure via lawsuits on the maker Eli Lilly, that our government sought to shield it from liability in 2002. They included a protective provision in a Homeland Security Bill. What?!!! Doesn’t make sense to me either. In fact, the articles I read called it a “who done it?” No one could figure out who made this happen.

On top of the thimerasol and formaldehyde issues, others ingredients include– polysorbate 80, a known cause of infertitlity, Octoxinol 10, a vaginal spermicide and many others. VAGINAL SPERMICIDE??? WTF?? Look at the list and Google the ingredients. Then pause and think about whether having a slightly less chance of getting the flu is worth injecting all these chemicals, worth injecting vaginal spermicide??? Even if you think the mist is better. Guess again. First, it is a live virus, which is why it is not approved for anyone over 50 or under 2. As one ages, it is harder to quickly build up the antibodies to fight the live virus. Second, it has MSG, a known neurotoxin. I don’t know about you, but we always order our Chinese food with NO MSG!

What about all the experts and studies claiming influenza vaccines are safe?

Well, I ask, how do they know? Adverse events are generally only reported within a narrow time frame and causality is very difficult to prove. How does anyone know health issues 6 months or years down the line are not from a cumulative effect of vaccines? You would think that there would be such a study. However there is NO study of vaccinated versus unvaccinated populations. It is deemed too expensive and insurmountable. If the CDC bases it’s 62% effectiveness for this year’s vaccine on a study of 1100 people out of the 128 million vaccinated so far, they certainly can find an unvaccinated control group… if desired.

NY Congresswomen, Carolyn Mahoney introduced the self-explanatory — Comprehensive Comparative Study of Vaccinated and Unvaccinated Populations Act of 2007. It never became law and she reintroduced it in 2009. Can we hope in 2013, Carolyn Mahoney might be successful?! Also, FYI, the “62%” reason to get the shot, according to the CDC, will in hindsight be proven to be lower due to several limitations of the study.

As for the studies that do exist, that Dr. Nancy Schneiderman, a former employee of Johnson and Johnson, discusses daily on the Today Show and The Nightly News, how many of us actually bother to read them? How many of us ask who sponsored the study or who is to gain by favorable results? How many of us ask our doctors to read the instructions and warnings on the vaccine packaging– the sections that list all the known possible side effects such as anaphylactic shock, seizures, Guillain-Barré syndrome? Do pregnant women know that while every news broadcast urges them to vaccinate, Fluvarin made by Novartis and several other 2012/13 vaccine package inserts, state, “no animal reproductive studies have been conducted with Fluvarin. It is not known whether Fluvarin can cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant women or can affect reproduction capacity.” Even the 3 of 5 manufacturers of flu vaccines who tested on rats clearly warn, “there are no adequate and well controlled studies in pregnant women.” They go on to say, “because animal studies are not always predictive of human response, Flulaval, (GlaxoSmithKline) should not be given to a pregnant woman only if clearly needed.” Also, is anyone aware that vaccines made by Novartis were temporarily banned in several European countries due to unknown small particles found in the vaccines? The ban has now been lifted, but has confidence been restored?

“It is not known whether Fluvarin can cause fetal harm when administered to pregnant women or can affect reproduction capacity.”

We have all seen the drug ads on TV, the ones that always end with all the possible known side effects. They sound awful, but at least we know they are being marketed to people whose conditions are bad enough that the side effects are a risk worth taking. But with the flu vaccine, if there were ads by manufacturers detailing the known and possible unknown side effects, would so many people line up to prevent something that it might not even be capable of preventing? Sounds a bit like Russian roulette or a shot in the dark!

Flu vaccines are big business.

They are not a one-time deal, they are yearly. Each year the active virus changes and scientists try to keep up by guessing which will be the predominant strain in the upcoming season. They use a surveillance based model scouting out other regions of the world ahead of us in the flu season when formulating the yearly vaccine. Yet, what is strange, is that the vaccine was EXACTLY the same in 2010/2011 and 2011/12. Even this year’s vaccine is only different by one strain. As flu vaccines are made exactly the same way as all the other vaccines we give our children: Inactivated virus, preservatives, chemicals, why is this the ONLY vaccine that lasts for just a couple of months? Why do we need to re-vaccinate each year when in some years, the vaccine is the same? It makes sense if the vaccine changes to accommodate a mutating virus, but not when the vaccine does not change. Perhaps it is because flu vaccines are a $2.5 billion per year industry! Makes one wonder…do we vaccinate annually so the pharmaceuticals can make money or because we really need the immunity from the vaccine with questionable effectiveness? Do you see the trend? It happens almost every year…incite fear. Talk about deaths. Race to get a shot. Then afterwards find out it was not as bad as we thought. Who says vaccine manufacturers do not advertise?! They just do not pay for it. They get their marketing for free thanks to our over zealous media.

Update 10/2013: Please see this article from the British Medical Journal where a John Hopkins researcher concludes the flu frenzy is more about marketing a disease.  http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f3037

In many ways the vaccine is a placebo. It makes us feel good that we did something proactive to protect our health. It makes us feel responsible, like we did the right thing. Yet, to me the evidence says otherwise. Even this week, a big article on Yahoo was about the increased risk of narcolepsy as a result of the 2009 swine flu vaccine. Similar to the present 2012/13 “pandemic”, everyone raced to vaccinate fearing shortages. Fortunately for Americans, the adverse reactions were caused by a vaccine only administered in Europe, but should we not use others’ misfortune as an opportunity to learn? To pause and think about what we are putting into our bodies and for what? Like any of these vaccines, we always run the risk that in the future, in the post marketing analyses, we will learn of the harmful consequences.

Nothing is full proof. But if you are starting out healthy, trust your immune system. It knows what to do. If you are starting out unhealthy, be wary of doing anything that could put a greater strain on your system and instead think about what you can do to strengthen it. (Future posts..stay tuned!)

My family and I have not had a flu shot in over 8 years and we have never had the flu and are rarely sick. We eat a healthy diet ( maybe not my husband as much) and especially in the dark winter months, we supplement with Vitamin D and C. We take care of ourselves and we make informed choices.

Some additional research for those not convinced or who want to learn more….

The Studies

The Cochrane Review best answers the question of validity. Cochrane is an organization that examines whether industry sponsorship of clinical trials has an impact on research outcomes. In 2010, they concluded, “reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin, but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies.” At best, “influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost.” Furthermore, there are so many respiratory illnesses and so many variations of the flu, that maybe only 7 percent of people who claim they have THE FLU, have it. “Conflation of influenza with influenza-like illness has confused the situation and fueled a frenzy,” according to their epidemiologist, Tom Jefferson, MD.

The Statistics

We hear the flu claims around 36,000 deaths per year, but actually according to Peter Doshi, PHD at John Hopkins School of Medicine, the CDC arrives at this number through statistical modeling. They measure the excessive deaths within a period of influenza circulation. The numbers are therefore highly misleading. Doshi emphasizes there is no guarantee that what they call influenza is actually influenza. The whole model is therefore unreliable and in several scholarly articles, he asserts the influenza vaccine is nothing more than a “public relations” campaign.

The Elderly, the Young and most vulnerable

The University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) in 2012, concluded that vaccines are completely ineffective in elderly populations and for children under two. They said between 1967 – 2011, there were no clinical trials evaluating the effects on the elderly!! How many times in the past several weeks have you heard the elderly must be vaccinated!! As for under two, a small study was done concluding the vaccines were nothing more than a placebo. Furthermore, they concluded that there are no studies showing the flu vaccine slows the spread of the virus through communities. It is too difficult to prove thus negating the idea of vaccinating to prevent further spread of the virus. “Public health officials have assumed that herd immunity plays a role in population protection following widespread influenza vaccination; however, given the varied coverage rates following vaccination campaigns and the wide ranges of efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines in any given season, it remains unclear whether or not herd immunity plays a significant role in influenza prevention and control”

CIDRAP also reiterates the findings of Cochrane questioning the validity of studies and vaccine effectiveness. According to CIDRAP, “Hundreds of influenza vaccine efficacy and effectiveness studies have been conducted since the 1940s. The design of these studies has varied widely, with most not meeting minimal requirements for unbiased recruitment and outcome ascertainment. The results of these studies, therefore, offer little value in understanding actual vaccine effectiveness and efficacy. In fact, such studies have clouded the real impact of influenza vaccination on morbidity and mortality and, as a result, have hindered informed public health and public policy decisions about the need for improved influenza vaccines.” “The few remaining (valid) studies provide the highest quality evidence to assess the true impact of influenza vaccines, have found a level of protection lower than that attributed to the vaccine.” “The perception that current vaccines are already highly effective in preventing influenza is a major barrier to pursuing game changing alternatives.”

The Mayo Clinic did a study of kids with asthma and found those vaccinated were three times as likely to end up in the hospital with the flu than those who were not vaccinated.

8 thoughts on “2012-2013 Influenza, To Vaccinate or Not?

  1. Mara, thank you thank you for this! I too am a real skeptic and not a blind-believer in the vaccination era we live in – and we do not vaccinate for the flu either. And for the record, neither my sons nor I have ever had the flu! Thank you for sharing the TRUTH which is so well hidden from people. This is important factual information that needs to be shared, thank you!

  2. For years I refused to allow my family to get a Flu Vaccine for many of the reasons you state. More recently, I got caught up in the scare +hysteria! Thanks for this great information and for the all important reminder to keep asking questions+researching. Go Mara!

  3. Wow – lots of info that makes me reconsider future vaccines. However, my family did get the flu vaccine in early December as we headed into a busy season of air travel and also as a precaution since my sister has a suppressed immune system. Since the kids entered school, we have practiced the basics every year during flu season: don’t touch your eyes, nose, mouth; wash your hands thoroughly; don’t touch a public door handle with your bare hands; and stay away from antibacterial cleaners and soaps! Use good old fashioned soap and wash, wash your hands. This practice has, knock on wood, kept my family healthy. Also, sensible, healthy eating, plenty of rest, and most of all, time for laughs, love, and fun!

  4. Hey! Do you use Twitter? I’d llike to follow you if that would be ok.

    I’m absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward
    to new updates.

    1. Thanks so much!! Check me out on twitter–@do_your_hw. My twitter feed is also on my home page. Also like me on FB. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. I post what I am reading daily. I appreciate the feedback!

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