It's that time of year. Time for flu shots. Everyone should get the flu shot or you will endanger your life and the lives of the people around you. At least that's what we are being told. Funny thing is, there are no studies that conclusively prove that flu shots actually work. Even the Center for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't provide an accurate estimate flu shot effectiveness. After some rambling jargon about how vaccine effectiveness varies depending on age group and a variety of other factors, the web site states, "CDC is currently reviewing recently published studies on vaccine effectiveness to update existing estimates." Currently reviewing recently published studies? How long has the flu shot been around? Wouldn't they have reviewed these studies by now?
There have been some studies that have shown that flu shots reduced mortality in the elderly by over 50%. That sounds great, but when you examine the studies things start to fall apart.
Lisa Jackson, a researcher from Group Health Research Center thought a 50% reduction sounded to good to be true, so she decided to look into factors that could be causing a discrepancy in the study. She hypothesized that the "difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated might be caused by a phenomenon known as the “healthy user effect.” Meaning that people who get vaccinated could simply be more healthier and more health conscience than people who don't get the flu vaccine.
According to an article, Does the Vaccine Matter, in the Atlantic Magazine, "Jackson and her colleagues combed through eight years of medical data on more than 72,000 people 65 and older. They looked at who got flu shots and who didn’t. Then they examined which group’s members were more likely to die of any cause when it was not flu season. Jackson’s findings showed that outside of flu season, the baseline risk of death among people who did not get vaccinated was approximately 60 percent higher than among those who did, lending support to the hypothesis that on average, healthy people chose to get the vaccine, while the “frail elderly” didn’t or couldn’t. In fact, the healthy-user effect explained the entire benefit that other researchers were attributing to flu vaccine, suggesting that the vaccine itself might not reduce mortality at all. "
In some years the use of flu shots rises and falls quite a bit, but the mortality rate due to flu shots doesn't rise and fall with usage rates. A classic example of this is 2004. The vaccination rate for the year was 40% less than normal. If the flu shot worked, one would expect the mortality rate to rise due to the reduction in the vaccination rate. This didn't happen, in fact the mortality rate due to getting the flu remained the same.
Another thing, flu shots are based on predicting the strain of the flu virus 9 months in advance. Flu viruses change rapidly, why would a few people's predictions be close to accurate? If they aren't accurate, a vaccination wouldn't do any good.
What do doctors think?
Read Influenza Vaccination: Policy vs. Evidence for a much better discussion of the issue.
Watch Tom Jefferson, epidemiologist at Cochrane Institute, talk about the Swine Flu Vaccine and the Politics Behind It
There are numerous other articles and videos by other flu shot skeptics. Just Google for things like, "does the flu vaccine work?"
Maybe they are right and maybe they are wrong. I'm inclined to believe the former. Check with your doctor and all that good stuff, but remember someone is getting an awful lot of money to produce 100's of millions of vaccine doses. Maybe, just maybe flu vaccines are more about the money and less about actual effectiveness.
Me? I think I'll pass, but what do I know.