This Season’s Flu Shot: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?
Headlines are announcing an epidemic. Your friends and family may be talking about the risks to you and your family.
The current mainstream recommendation is for everyone over the age of 6 months old to get a flu shot.
The thinking is that the seasonal flu vaccine may prevent illness or reduce the severity of symptoms.
How do you make the best decision for your family? Do the benefits of the flu vaccine outweigh the risks?
Not 100% Safe, Not 100% Effective
The flu vaccine isn’t 100% safe or 100% effective. In fact, when given to children under two years old, a flu shot isn’t any more effective than a placebo.
The subject of vaccination is complex and controversial. Whether you support full immunization or you feel uncertain about the value of vaccines, the medical literature on vaccines tells us that vaccines are not 100% safe.
They are also not 100% effective.
According to the independent, non-profit Cochrane Collaboration, the information that we are given about vaccines and vaccine safety is subject to heavy bias.
The Cochrane Collaboration works with the World Health Organization (WHO) and systematically reviews all medical literature. The Cochrane database is respected and valued worldwide, ranking in the top 10 of general and internal medical journals.
According to a 2010 review of all medical literature on the flu vaccine that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people, Cochrane researchers found that “vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalized or working days lost.” (1)
It was also noted that, “Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies, and four had no funding declaration…Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products.”
In other words, many vaccine studies are funded by the people who make the vaccines. Ultimately, these studies are biased and favor the use of the vaccine.
An earlier review done by Cochrane Collaboration in 2007 found that vaccine studies that were “industry funded” were more likely to be “published in prestigious journals and cited more.”
In this 2007 review of vaccine studies, Cochrane researchers found that, “Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines.”
They remarked that reliable evidence on the flu shot is “thin” and that there is evidence of “widespread manipulation.”
In the end, authors of the 2010 Cochrane review concluded that, “Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost.”
According to the CDC, of the 115 US children who died from influenza or influenza-related complications during the 2010–2011 flu season, 23% of the children were fully vaccinated. (2)
In children under two years old, the flu shot was found to be as effective as a placebo. (3)
Healthy People: Getting Vaccinated and Getting Sick
Like any other pharmaceutical drug, all vaccine use is associated with side effects. These side effects range from uncomfortable to dangerous and life threatening.
Vaccine side effects:
- Common side effects include swelling, redness, and soreness where the shot was given and flu-like symptoms.
- Rare side effects include infection and autoimmunity in response to a vaccination. Autoimmunity can show up in the form of diabetes, arthritis, or paralysis.
- Sometimes, a reaction to vaccination can be so severe that it is fatal. (4)
The most common autoimmune disease associated with the flu shot is something called Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS).
GBS affects the nervous system and causes paralysis. While many people recover fully over the course of several months, up to 10% of those affected by GBS after vaccination remain severely disabled.
For a long time, medical literature has acknowledged that Guillain–Barré syndrome can occur after and because of vaccination. This relationship was first noted in 1976, after an outbreak of the disease following rounds of the swine flu vaccine. (5)
In order to make vaccines more effective, research has had success with something called an adjuvant, like aluminum, which is placed into the vaccine to help bring about a stronger response in the immune system. Unfortunately, this enhanced efficacy also means an increase in risk of autoimmune diseases like GBS. (6)(7)
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one to two healthy individuals out of 1 million will develop GBS following the flu shot. While the disorder is rare, risk of GBS and other autoimmune reactions increases with the use of vaccines. (8)
Fully Weigh the Risks Against the Benefits
Unlike other pharmaceutical drugs that help relieve symptoms of disease during illness, vaccines are given to healthy people.
Unfortunately, a vaccine can sometimes contribute to the development of health concerns. In fact, the relationship between autoimmunity and immunizations is clear and documented.
If you are on the fence about getting a seasonal flu shot, first enhance your ability to ward off the flu or fight an infection by nourishing the body with fermented foods, as well as plenty of exercise, rest, and sunshine or a strong Vitamin D supplement.
You may find that you effortlessly sail through this flu season!
What To Remember Most About This Article:
While many consider the flu season an epidemic, it’s important to explore the reality of the flu vaccine before making a final decision. Medical research supports the fact that vaccines are not 100% safe, nor are they 100% effective. Even worse, since vaccine trials are often funded by vaccine companies, vaccine safety information is often biased at best.
Researchers have confirmed that the flu vaccine only has a modest effect in reducing flu symptoms. Vaccination can cause a wide range of side effects that include mild flu-like symptoms to severe autoimmune reactions.
Before deciding to get a flu shot this year, take the time to weigh the risks against the benefits. Since vaccines are given to healthy people, they can cause a number of health issues, including autoimmunity. You can support your body’s ability to fight off the flu, with or without a flu shot, with nourishment from fermented foods and exercise, rest, and vitamin D from the sun!
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- Jefferson T, Di Pietrantonj C, Rivetti A, Bawazeer GA, Al-Ansary LA, Ferroni E. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2010, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD001269. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub4
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Influenza-associated pediatric deaths–United States, September 2010-August 2011. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2011; 60:1233-8; PMID:21918492
- Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Harnden A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2008; CD004879; PMID:18425905
- Banzhoff A, Stoddard J. Effective influenza vaccines for children: A critical unmet medical need and a public health priority. Human Vaccines & Immunotherapeutics 2012; 8:398 – 402; PMID: 22327501; http://dx.doi.org10.4161/hv.1856
- Haber P et al. (Nov 24, 2004). “Guillain-Barré syndrome following influenza vaccination”. JAMA 292 (20): 2478–81. doi:10.1001/jama.292.20.2478. PMID 15562126.
- N Agmon-Levin, et al. The spectrum of ASIA: Autoimmune (Auto-inflammatory) Syndrome induced by Adjuvants. Lupus. 2012 Feb;21(2):118-20. doi: 10.1177/0961203311429316.
- Agmon-Levin N, Paz Z, Israeli E, Shoenfeld Y. Vaccines and autoimmunity. Nat Rev Rheumatol 2009; 5: 648–52.
- Israeli E, Agmon-Levin N, Blank M, Shoenfeld Y. Adjuvants and autoimmunity. Lupus 2009; 18: 1217–1225.