By Dr. Mercola
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2017-2018 flu season was the deadliest flu season in the U.S. in four decades, hospitalizing 900,000 and killing 80,000, including 180 children. According to CNN,1 “ … [F]lu-related deaths have ranged from a low of about 12,000 during the 2011-2012 season to a high of about 56,000 during the 2012-2013.”
While that sounds ominous, it’s worth remembering that what they’re counting as “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.2
As you’d expect, these mortality statistics are now being used to frighten people into getting an annual flu shot. U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Jerome Adams goes even further, saying that getting vaccinated is a “social responsibility,” as it “protects others around you, including family, friends, co-workers and neighbors.”3
But is that actually true? Not according to recent research, it isn’t. In fact, research published earlier this year suggests repeated annual flu vaccinations could actually make you a greater health threat to your community. Influenza vaccination does not appear to lower the risk of disease transmission at all.
Flu Vaccine Allows Transmission of Disease, Study Shows
According to a study4 published in the journal PNAS January 18, 2018, people who receive the seasonal flu shot and then contract influenza excrete infectious influenza viruses through their breath. What’s more, those vaccinated two seasons in a row have a greater viral load of shedding influenza A viruses.
They also note that other studies suggest annual flu vaccination leads to reduced protection against influenza, which means each vaccination is likely to make you progressively more prone to getting sick. According to the authors:
“In adjusted models, we observed 6.3 times more aerosol shedding among cases with vaccination in the current and previous season compared with having no vaccination in those two seasons … The association of vaccination and shedding was significant for influenza A but not for influenza B infections …
Finding infectious virus in 39 percent of fine-aerosol samples collected during 30 minutes of normal tidal breathing in a large community-based study of confirmed influenza infection clearly establishes that a significant fraction of influenza cases routinely shed infectious virus … into aerosol particles small enough to remain suspended in air and present a risk for airborne transmission …
The association of current and prior year vaccination with increased shedding of influenza A might lead one to speculate that certain types of prior immunity promote lung inflammation, airway closure and aerosol generation …
If confirmed, this observation, together with recent literature suggesting reduced protection with annual vaccination, would have implications for influenza vaccination recommendations and policies.”
You can get vaccinated, show few or no symptoms and still shed and transmit influenza to other people.5,6
Last Year’s Flu Vaccine Was Only 36 Percent Effective
If you think you cannot get type A or B influenza if you’ve been vaccinated, think again. Your chances of getting influenza after vaccination are still greater than 50/50 in any given year. According to CDC data,7 the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness against “influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness” was just 36 percent.
Ironically, CDC officials continue to recommend influenza vaccination “because the vaccine can still prevent some infections with currently circulating influenza viruses.”8 Dr. William Schaffner, medical director for the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, told CNN, “The vaccine is not perfect, but give the vaccine credit for softening the blow.”
Now, if merely softening the blow, lowering your chances of contracting influenza by a measly 36 percent is good enough, why isn’t vitamin D a viable alternative when evidence demonstrates it actually prevents far more cases of acute respiratory infections?
Vitamin D Optimization Helps Prevent Respiratory Infections
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the excellent track record of vitamin D for preventing respiratory infections. Most recently, a 2017 scientific review9,10 of 25 randomized controlled trials that included nearly 11,000 individuals found that vitamin D supplementation cuts rates of acute respiratory infections among all participants.
Those with blood levels below 10 ng/mL, which is actually a serious deficiency state, cut their risk of infection by half. People with higher vitamin D levels reduced their risk by about 10 percent. According to this international research team, vitamin D supplementation could prevent more than 3.25 million cases of cold and flu each year in the U.K. alone.11
Another statistic showing vitamin D is a far more effective strategy for preventing respiratory illness during flu season is the “number needed to treat” (NNT).
In a 2014 meta-analysis12 of the available research on inactivated influenza vaccines, the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that 71 people must be vaccinated to avoid a single influenza case; 29 would need to be vaccinated to avoid one case of influenza-like illness or acute respiratory infection. They also found that vaccination has “no appreciable effect on hospitalizations.”
Meanwhile, the NNT for vitamin D supplementation was 33, meaning one person would be spared from acute respiratory infection for every 33 people taking a vitamin D supplement. Among those with severe vitamin D deficiency at baseline, the NNT was 4.
So, if you’re going to gamble, which odds would you rather have — a 1 in 71 chance of being protected against respiratory infection, or a 1 in 33 chance (or 1 in 4 should you be severely vitamin D deficient)? Despite such evidence, when was the last time a public health authority even mentioned vitamin D as a preventive measure?
In fact, in a recent Forbes article,13 Bruce Y. Lee, associate professor of international health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, specifically stated that advice to boost vitamin D should be ignored. He highlighted one of my previous articles, pointing out that one of my references showing benefit from vitamin D stated in its conclusion that “it is premature to recommend vitamin D for either the prevention or treatment of viral respiratory infections.”
Call for further research is extremely common in studies, and you’ll find similar commentary in drug studies as well. Does that stop doctors from prescribing them? No. Lee also points out that I sell vitamins, and that this makes my vitamin D recommendation suspect. So, are we to believe that no one advocating for flu vaccines makes any money from it?
In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,14 and vitamin C also boosts the effectiveness of quercetin, a flavonoid antioxidant. Taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.
Vaccination Does Little to Lessen Flu Symptoms or Decrease Mortality
Going by last season’s effectiveness rating, you had a 64 percent chance of contracting influenza if you got vaccinated. But what about claims that getting a flu shot makes symptoms of influenza milder and reduces your risk of death? There are studies that refute both of those arguments.
According to French research15 published in April 2017, the symptoms of influenza experienced by vaccinated and unvaccinated people are nearly identical. According to the authors:
“Compared to nonvaccinated influenza patients, those who had been vaccinated had a slightly reduced maximum temperature and presented less frequently with myalgia, shivering and headache.
In stratified analyses, the observed effect was limited to patients infected with A(H3) or type B viruses. After adjusting by age group, virus (sub)type and season, the difference remained statistically significant only for headache, which was less frequent among vaccinated individuals.”
Research16 published in 2005 also found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”
Good Example of Why Health Authorities Can’t Be Trusted to Tell the Truth About Vaccine Hazards
Lee and other dogmatic universal vaccination disciples seem to forget that nearly all vaccine safety studies come with marked bias, and the safety testing of vaccines is a joke.17 Nearly all side effects are classified as a “coincidence,” a talking point Lee uses in his article.
September 20, 2018, an important article18 in the BMJ highlighted the fact that, while health authorities swore the pandemic H1N1 swine flu vaccine was safe and had undergone rigorous testing, internal documents unearthed during a lawsuit reveal there were, in fact, questions about the vaccine’s safety. Yet, the public was simply never informed.
The vaccine in question was GlaxoSmithKline’s Pandemrix vaccine, which was linked to a surprisingly high number of cases of narcolepsy across Europe, along with other serious adverse reactions. Associate editor of the BMJ, Peter Doshi, wrote:
“Now … new information is emerging from one of the lawsuits that, months before the narcolepsy cases were reported, the manufacturer and public health officials were aware of other serious adverse events logged in relation to Pandemrix …
For a range of concerning adverse events, reports were coming in for Pandemrix at a consistently higher rate than for the other two GSK pandemic vaccines — four times the rate of facial palsy, eight times the rate of serious adverse events, nine times the rate of convulsions. Overall, Pandemrix had, proportionally, five times more adverse events reported than Arepanrix and the unadjuvanted vaccine.
And the raw numbers of adverse events were not small … The last report seen by The BMJ, dated 31 March 2010, shows 5,069 serious adverse events for Pandemrix (72 per 1 million doses), seven times the rate for Arepanrix and the unadjuvanted vaccine combined … But neither GSK nor the health authorities seem to have made the information public — nor is it clear that the disparity was investigated …
[T]he events of 2009-10 raise fundamental questions about the transparency of information. When do public health officials have a duty to warn the public over possible harms of vaccines detected through pharmacovigilance? How much detail should the public be provided with, who should provide it, and should the provision of such information be proactive or passive? If history were to repeat itself, does the public have a right to know?”
Lee and other flu vaccine proponents also ignore data19 linking the seasonal influenza vaccine with an increased risk for contracting pandemic influenza. Why would Lee ignore all of this information, not to mention the other published vaccine studies referenced throughout this article?
Perhaps, as a specialist in “using ways (including digital media) to translate and communicate scientific and health information to all sectors including the general public,”20 he chose not to include the scientific evidence I am providing in this article because he was reluctant to tell the truth and nothing but the truth about the risks and failures of influenza vaccine.
Another reason could be because Lee has financial ties to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation,21 which is a funding partner of Gavi,22 an international vaccine alliance that includes the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations marketing vaccines.
Is Flu Vaccine Safe for Pregnant Women?
Caution is not even exercised for pregnant women anymore. Historically, pregnant women have been discouraged from taking drugs and vaccines because there’s very little scientific data evaluating risks for the pregnant woman or growing fetus.
Considering the potential dangers of toxic exposures for both mother and child, pregnant women have thus far not been included in clinical vaccine trials, hence the lack of information.
For better or worse, that will now change, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has now issued draft guidance23 for industry on when and how they may include pregnant women in clinical trials for drugs and therapies. Also, Congress included an amendment to the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act in the 2016 21st Century Cures Act, so now drug companies producing CDC recommended vaccines for pregnant women cannot be sued if a pregnant woman or her child developing in the womb born alive suffers injury from maternal vaccinations.24
Despite significant vaccine safety research gaps when it comes to maternal vaccination,25 the CDC is now urging all women to get a flu shot during every pregnancy. According to Dr. Laura E. Riley, professor and chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at Weill Cornell Medicine, who is quoted by CNN, “the flu vaccine is safe and effective for both pregnant women and their fetuses” and can be given during any trimester.26
Where is the supporting evidence for such claims? It really disturbs me that Riley makes no mention at all of CDC-funded research showing that flu vaccination during early pregnancy has in fact been linked in one study to an eightfold risk of miscarriage.
The maternal vaccination study 27,28, 29 found that women who had received an inactivated 2009 pandemic H1N1-containing flu shot the previous year were more likely to suffer miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) within 28 days of receiving another pH1N1-containing flu shot during pregnancy. The finding was statistically significant.
While most of the miscarriages occurred during the first trimester, several also took place in the second trimester.30,31,32 The median fetal term at the time of miscarriage was seven weeks. In all, 485 pregnant women aged 18 to 44 who had a miscarriage during the flu seasons of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 were compared to 485 pregnant women who carried to term.
Of the 485 women who miscarried, 17 had been vaccinated twice in a row — once in the 28 days prior to miscarriage and once in the previous year. For comparison, of the 485 women who had normal pregnancies, only four had been vaccinated two years in a row. Commenting on the study, CDC adviser for vaccines Amanda Cohn stated:
“I think it’s really important for women to understand that this is a possible link, and it is a possible link that needs to be studied and needs to be looked at over more [flu] seasons. We need to understand if it’s the flu vaccine, or is this a group of women [who received flu vaccines] who were also more likely to have miscarriages.”
So how does Riley see fit to claim flu vaccination is safe for both the mother and fetus in all trimesters? Riley also claims the vaccine “protects babies after they are born, preventing flu in the first six months of their lives when they are too young to get their own flu shot.”
Annual Flu Shots Can Increase Future Susceptibility to Influenza and Other Infections
Another commonly accepted myth is that seasonal flu vaccination “primes” your body to combat all strains of influenza,33 regardless of whether they’re included in the vaccine or not. However, vaccines don’t work that way. The vaccine does prime your body to fight viruses, but only those included in the vaccine.
Not only does it not protect against other strains, this priming of your immune system can also make you more susceptible to infection from other pathogens. This phenomenon is an effect inherent in heterologous immunity. As explained in a 2014 paper:34
“Immunity to previously encountered viruses can alter responses to unrelated pathogens … Heterologous immunity … may be beneficial by boosting protective responses.
However, heterologous reactivity can also result in severe immunopathology. The key features that define heterologous immune modulation include alterations in the CD4 and CD8 T cell compartments and changes in viral dynamics and disease progression.”
Heterologous reactivity has been demonstrated in several studies. For example, a 2010 Canadian study35 found people who were vaccinated against seasonal influenza were more susceptible to the pandemic H1N1 influenza strain. These findings were replicated in a 2014 ferret study.36
Similarly, a 2012 Chinese study37 found a child’s chances of contracting a respiratory infection after getting the 2008-2009 seasonal flu shot rose more than fourfold. The study’s authors concluded:
“We identified a statistically significant increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infection among TIV [inactivated influenza vaccine] recipients, including significant increases in the risk of rhinovirus and coxsackie/echovirus infections, which were most frequently detected in March 2009, immediately after the peak in seasonal influenza activity in February 2009.”
Heterologous immunity is also addressed in a 2013 paper,38 which noted that “vaccines modulate general resistance,” and “have nonspecific effects on the ability of the immune system to handle other pathogens.” The authors also stated that:
“… [O]ur current perception of the immune system is … simplistic. It was, to a large extent, shaped in the 1950s with the formulation of the clonal selection hypothesis.
This line of thinking has emphasized the adaptive immune system and the speci?c antigen recognition and speci?c memory, which have been crucial in vaccine development, perhaps at the expense of examining cross-reactive features of the immune system as well as the memory capacity of the innate immune system.
Although tens of thousands of studies assessing disease-speci?c, antibody-inducing effects of vaccines have been conducted, most people have not examined whether vaccines have nonspeci?c effects because current perception excludes such effects.”
Influenza Vaccines May Do More Harm Than Good
The flawed “universal use” vaccination ideology pays no attention at all to studies that show vaccines can cause acute and chronic illness while failing to work as advertised.
Last season’s influenza vaccine had an effectiveness of 36 percent, yet they use the severity of the flu season as a goad to get you to vaccinate yourself and your children yet again — this, despite the fact that most studies find higher rates of health problems after just one or two flu shots.
A mounting body of research strongly questions the validity of annual flu vaccination as an effective public health measure. Here’s just a sampling of the evidence that is completely ignored by heath officials during the annual vaccination campaign:
With each successive annual flu vaccination, the theoretical protection from the vaccine appears to diminish39,40 — A 2012 Chinese study41 found a child’s chances of contracting a respiratory infection after getting the seasonal flu shot rose more than fourfold, and research published in 2014 concluded that resistance to influenza-related illness in persons 9 years and older in the U.S. was greatest among those who had NOT received a flu shot in the previous five years.42
More recent research suggests the reason seasonal flu shots become less protective with each dose has to do with “original antigenic sin.” Here, they found that influenza vaccine failed to elicit a strong immune response in most participants,43 which a University of Chicago Medical Center press release entitled, “Past Encounters with the Flu Shape Vaccine Response,” explained as follows:44
“What’s at play seems to be a phenomenon known as ‘original antigenic sin.’ Flu vaccines are designed to get the immune system to produce antibodies that recognize the specific strains of the virus someone may encounter in a given year.
These antibodies target unique sites on the virus, and latch onto them to disable it. Once the immune system already has antibodies to target a given site on the virus, it preferentially reactivates the same immune cells the next time it encounters the virus.
This is efficient for the immune system, but the problem is that the virus changes ever so slightly from year to year. The site the antibodies recognize could still be there, but it may no longer be the crucial one to neutralize the virus.
Antibodies produced from our first encounters with the flu, either from vaccines or infection, tend to take precedence over ones generated by later inoculations. So even when the vaccine is a good match for a given year, if someone has a history with the flu, the immune response to a new vaccine could be less protective.”
The annual flu shot can increase the risk of contracting other, more serious influenza infections — Canadian researchers reported in 2010 that people who had received the seasonal flu vaccine in 2008 had twice the risk of getting sick with the pandemic H1N1 “swine flu” requiring medical attention in 2009 compared to those who did not receive a flu shot the previous year.45
These findings were replicated in ferrets in 2014.46 Previously, a 2009 U.S. study compared health outcomes for children between 6 months and age 18 years who did and did not get inactivated influenza vaccine and found that children who received annual influenza vaccinations had a three times higher risk of influenza-related hospitalization, with asthmatic children at greatest risk.47
Flu vaccine doesn’t work well in statin users — Statin drugs (taken by 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 45) may interfere with your immune system’s ability to respond to the influenza vaccine.48,49 After vaccination, antibody concentrations were 38 percent to 67 percent lower in statin users over the age of 65, compared to nonstatin users of the same age.50 Antibody concentrations were also reduced in younger people who took statins.
Influenza vaccine studies document the vaccine’s ineffectiveness — A 2010 independent scientific review of influenza vaccine studies concluded that flu shots have only a “modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost,” and “there is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia or transmission.”51
Another independent review published in 2018 found that in children aged 3 to 16 years, receipt of live or inactivated flu vaccines only slightly reduced the proportion of children with confirmed influenza.52 Moreover, the influenza vaccine fails to prevent influenza-like illness associated with other types of viruses responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory or gastrointestinal infections during any given flu season.53,54,55
Little evidence that flu vaccination lowers mortality in the elderly — Research56 published in 2006 analyzed influenza-related mortality among the elderly population over age 65 in Italy associated with increased flu vaccination coverage between 1970 and 2001. Investigators found that after the late 1980s, there was no corresponding decline in excess deaths, despite rising flu vaccine uptake among the elderly.
According to the authors, “These findings suggest that either the vaccine failed to protect the elderly against mortality (possibly due to immune senescence), and/or the vaccination efforts did not adequately target the frailest elderly. As in the U.S., our study challenges current strategies to best protect the elderly against mortality, warranting the need for better controlled trials with alternative vaccination strategies.”
Another 2006 study57 showed that, even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die BEFORE the flu season ever started.
This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.
Flu vaccination during pregnancy may raise risk of miscarriage — Research published September 25, 2017, in the medical journal Vaccine 58,59 found that women who had received an inactivated 2009 pandemic H1N1-containing flu shot the previous year were more likely to suffer miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) within 28 days of receiving another pH1N1-containing flu shot during pregnancy. The finding was statistically significant. While most of the miscarriages occurred during the first trimester, several also took place in the second trimester60,61
Effectiveness of flu vaccine is typically below 50 percent — February 16, 2018, the CDC published interim estimates of the 2017-2018 seasonal influenza vaccine’s effectiveness for the U.S.62 The overall adjusted flu vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and influenza B virus infection associated with medically attended acute respiratory illness was 36 percent in 2017-2018. Put another way, the vaccine did not work 64 percent of the time.
More precisely, influenza vaccine effectiveness during the 2017-2018 flu season was estimated to be 25 percent effective against the A(H3N2) virus; 67 percent effective against A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses and 42 percent effective against influenza B viruses. In 2015, a CDC analysis63 revealed that, between 2005 and 2015, the flu vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half the time, so 2017-2018’s low effectiveness rating (36 percent) was no great surprise.
The Flucelvax vaccine introduced during the 2017-2018 flu season, which is grown in dog kidney cells rather than chicken eggs, was also a failure. Touted as a new-and-improved flu shot that would protect more people, FDA research found no significant difference between it and the conventional flu shot in protecting seniors. While flu vaccines overall had a 24 percent effectiveness in preventing flu-related hospitalizations in people aged 65 and older, the Flucelvax vaccine had an effectiveness rate of only 26.5 percent in that population.64
Flu vaccine does little to lessen influenza severity — While health officials are fond of saying that getting a flu shot will lessen your symptoms should you contract influenza, a 2017 study65 by French researchers, which aimed to assess the veracity of such claims, found it not to be true most of the time. Looking at data from vaccinated and unvaccinated elderly patients diagnosed with influenza, all they found was a reduction in initial headache complaints among those who had been vaccinated. According to the authors:
“Compared to nonvaccinated influenza patients, those who had been vaccinated had a slightly reduced maximum temperature and presented less frequently with myalgia, shivering and headache. In stratified analyses, the observed effect was limited to patients infected with A(H3) or type B viruses. After adjusting by age group, virus (sub)type and season, the difference remained statistically significant only for headache, which was less frequent among vaccinated individuals.”
Flu vaccine is associated with serious disability — Permanent disability such as paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a risk you need to take into account each time you get a flu shot. GBS was first identified as a risk for influenza vaccine during the 1976 swine flu campaign in the U.S. and in 2003, the CDC stated that for two flu seasons in the early 1990s, the flu vaccine caused an excess of 1.7 cases of GBS per 1 million people vaccinated.66
Data from the federal vaccine injury compensation program (VICP) operated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice reveals that GBS is a leading injury for which people are receiving financial compensation for vaccine injuries and deaths, and the flu vaccine is now the most common vaccine cited by adults seeking a vaccine injury compensation award.67,68
Shoulder damage is another risk, caused by improper injection technique.69,70,71 Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) includes chronic pain, limited range of motion, nerve damage, frozen shoulder and rotator cuff tears, and is typically the result of the injection being administered too high on the arm. This risk is particularly high when people get vaccinated outside of a doctor’s office or other clinical setting.
Many people getting flu shots in a public setting like a grocery store or pharmacy simply roll up their sleeves or pull down the top of their shirt, exposing only the upper part of their deltoid, thereby increasing the risk of getting the injection in the joint space rather than the muscle.
GBS and SIRVA were both added to the Vaccine Injury Table in 2017.72,73 By adding those vaccine complications to the table, vaccine-related GBS and SIRVA cases brought before the “Vaccine Court” in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., will be more likely to receive federal vaccine injury compensation.
In this lecture, immunologist Tetyana Obukhanych, Ph.D., author of “Vaccine Illusion: How Vaccination Compromises Our Natural Immunity and What We Can Do to Regain Our Health,” explains how vaccines damage your immune function, which can result in any number of adverse health effects.