News reports have been flooding us with articles warning that the impending flu season may be the worst in years. Even though it is difficult to separate the facts from the hype, a close evaluation of the flu vaccine will reveal that serious questions must be raised about the recommendations that are routinely touted, namely high efficacy with little risk. Anyone considering a flu shot should become informed about the substances coming through that needle, and should be determined to investigate the safety and efficacy issues that are still unresolved.
The Vaccine Virus
Each year, a new vaccine is developed that contains three different viruses (one influenza B and two influenza A strains). CDC officials select the new viruses based on which viruses were prevalent during the flu season in China and Australia the previous year. The CDC admits that the viruses selected for the new vaccine are chosen on the basis of an “educated guess.” [i]
What’s in a Flu Shot?
The influenza virus is grown in “specific pathogen-free” (SPF) eggs. Eggs are tested for a variety of agents—usually between 23 and 31—to confirm the absence of those specific pathogens. Laboratories limit the number of agents that are screened due to the shear abundance of potential viruses and/or bacteria to choose from. In addition, screening for every potential agent would be cost prohibitive.[ii] If none of the tested agents are detected, the vaccine is reported as “pathogen free.”
However, it should be understood that there is a distinct difference between “pathogen free” and “specific pathogen-free.” In its July 1996 report, the Institute of Medicine acknowledged that “although it is not possible to produce a completely uncontaminated animal, it is possible to produce an animal [or egg] certified to be free of specific pathogens.”[iii] Viruses that are harmless to their animal host, however, may be potentially harmful to humans.
During the manufacturing process, antibiotics (neomycin, polymyxin B and gentamicin) are added to eliminate stray bacteria found in the mixture. The final solution can contain the following additives in any combination: Triton X-100 (a detergent); polysorbate 80 (a potential carcinogen); gelatin; formaldehyde; and residual egg proteins. In addition, many of the influenza vaccines still contain thimerosal as a preservative. Thimerosal (mercury) is being investigated for its link to brain injury and autoimmune disease.
Does the Flu Shot Protect?
There are no guarantees that the influenza viruses selected for the vaccine will be the identical strains circulating during a given flu season. In fact, it has recently been announced that this year's flu vaccine does not include the strain that is being reported by doctors in the community called the “A Fujian” strain. Outbreaks have been reported in Texas, Colorado and elsewhere[iv] that involve strains that do not match the current flu vaccine. CDC tests have confirmed that more than 80 per cent of the 55 strains of influenza virus isolated thus far are the A Fujian strain. Even so, the CDC still maintains that the current vaccine could provide cross-protection against the new variant, but the fact is, no one knows for sure.
Moreover, the majority of illnesses characterized by fever, fatigue, cough and aching muscles are not caused by the influenza virus. Non-influenza viruses (e.g., rhinoviruses respiratory syncytial virus [RSV], adenoviruses, and parainfluenza viruses) can cause symptoms referred to influenza-like illnesses (ILI). Certain bacteria, such as Legionella spp., Chlamydia pneumoniae, Mycoplasma pneumoniae, and Streptococcus pneumoniae, have been documented as the causes of ILI.[v]
Notably, these microbes are not part of the flu vaccine. Unless an organism’s antigen is contained within the vaccine, there is no protection conferred by the vaccine. It is estimated that most adults will average 1-3 episodes of ILI, and most children will average 3-6 episodes. The CDC also admits that “many persons who have been vaccinated against influenza can still get the flu”[vi]
Targeting the Elderly
The flu vaccine is generally recommended for persons aged 65 and older, and those with medical conditions who could experience serious complications from the flu. Medical journals report broad differences in effectiveness for the elderly, ranging from 0 to 85%.
The CDC states that 90% of deaths from influenza occur among the elderly. Considering that nearly 65% of all deaths (from any cause) occur in this age group, it is nearly impossible to prove that flu shots significantly increase life expectancy in this group. The truth is that most people—young and old—will weather a bout of the flu without hospitalization or complications.
A Serious Concern: Alzheimer’s Disease
Hugh Fudenberg, MD, an immunogeneticist and biologist with nearly 850 papers published in peer review journals, has reported that if an individual had five consecutive flu shots between 1970 and 1980 (the years studied), his/her chances of getting Alzheimer's Disease is ten times higher than if they had zero, one, or two shots.[vii]
Dr. Boyd Haley, Professor and Chair of the Department of Chemistry at the University of Kentucky, Lexington has done extensive research in the area of mercury toxicity and the brain. Haley’s research has established a likely connection between mercury toxicity and Alzheimer’s disease. [viii] In a paper published in collaboration with researchers at University of Calgary, Haley stated that “seven of the characteristic markers that we look for to distinguish Alzheimer's disease can be produced in normal brain tissues, or cultures of neurons, by the addition of extremely low levels of mercury.”[ix]
Does this prove that the mercury contained in the influenza shot can be directly linked to Alzheimer’s? No, absolutely not. But further research in this area is critically needed because the absence of proof is not the “proof of absence.”[x]
Flu Vaccine Now for Children
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) adopted a resolution effective March 1, 2003 that expanded the use of the influenza vaccine to include children aged 6-23 months. The recommendations also included vaccinating those aged 2 to 18 years who live in households containing children younger than 2 years of age.[xi]
The flu vaccine most commonly given to children is Fluzone, a trivalent vaccine grown in chicken eggs. Harvested with formaldehyde and containing the recommended ratio of 15 ug of each of the three prototype viral strains, each dose of Fluzone also contains 25 ug of mercury.[xii] The new CDC recommendations include giving the influenza vaccine to children beginning at six months of age and then annually, for the rest of their lives. Children less than age 9 receiving their first flu shot, two doses of vaccine are recommended, with a minimum interval of one month between the two doses. However, the CDC does not provide a direct reference to substantiate this recommendation.[xiii]
On June 17, 2003, the FDA approved an intranasal influenza vaccine for use in healthy persons aged 5–49 years. Flumist is a live-virus vaccine that can cause a litany of problems.
If you choose not to receive the flu shot, have a discussion with your doctor regarding other options. However, some simple and possibly quite effective things you can do for yourself to prevent the flu include: 1) avoid white sugar;[xiv] 2) exercise regularly; 3) get adequate sleep; 4) eat a healthy diet, omitting trans-fats; 5) drink plenty of purified water daily and 6) wash your hands. A common way people contract viral illnesses is by rubbing their nose or their eyes after their hands have been contaminated with a virus. The CDC states, “the most important thing you can do to keep from getting sick is to wash your hands.”[xv]
We are so used to taking medications—for prevention and treatment—that it is difficult to comprehend that these modest recommendations are really the most powerful ways to minimize the likelihood of getting the flu.
Making the Decision
You may decide to consult a physician who is schooled in alternative medicine to assess a variety of options for you and your family. What is most important, in the end, is to become as informed as possible regarding your options for keeping healthy and avoiding the flu.
[i] Sabin, Russel and Reynolds. Breakdowns Mar Flu Shot Program Production, distribution delays raise fears of nation vulnerable to epidemic. San Francisco Chronicle. Feb. 25, 2001
[ii] Charles River Laboratories, A Laboratory Animal Health Monitoring Program: Rationale and Development,' (Winter 1990); Source: Internet address
[iii] Institute of Medicine Press Release: Federal Guidelines Needed to Ensure Safety in Animal-to-Human Organ Transplants. July 17, 1996.
[iv]CBS: The Associated Press. CDC Says Flu Season Is Going Strong in Parts of U.S., Vaccine Doesn't Match Strain Doctors See.
[v] MMWR. November 9, 2001 / 50(44);984-6
[vi] MMWR Nov. 9, 2001/50(44); 984-6
[vii] Hugh Fudenberg, MD, is Founder and Director of Research, Neurolmmuno Therapeutic Research Foundation. Information from Dr. Hugh Fudenberg came from transcribed notes of Dr. Fudenberg's speech at the NVIC International Vaccine Conference, Arlington, VA September, 1997. Quoted with permission.
[viii] The Relationship of Toxic Effects of Mercury to Exacerbation of the Medical Condition Classified as Alzheimer’s Disease by Boyd E. Haley, PhD.
[ix] NeuroReport, 12(4):733-737, 2001
[xi] MMWR. 2002;51[RR-3]:1-31
[xii] Package insert. Influenza Virus VaccineFluzone® 2003 – 2004 Formula
[xiii] MMWR. 2002: 51 [RR-3], pg. 19
[xiv] All forms of refined sugar depress white blood cells' ability to destroy bacteria. See Sanchez A, et al. Role of sugars in human neutrophilic phagocytosis. Am J Clin Nutr 1973;26:1180.
[xv]CDC—Handwashing: An ounce of prevention keeps the germs away.