"So last year I got a flu shot," Gary told me, "because everyone kept telling me I needed one. And then I got the flu! I'm not doing that again this year. But what am I supposed to do to stay healthy?"
Gary was a new patient. He was disappointed in the results he was getting from conventional medicine and wanted to talk to me about alternatives. He also wanted to know whether or not a flu shot was a good idea, and, if not, why they're being pushed on the public anyway.
Since we're seeing the "Get Your Flu Shot Now" signs springing up everywhere, I'll share with you what I told Gary. If you have plans to get a flu shot, but have not done so yet, I urge you to read the rest of this newsletter. It just may change your mind.
Where's the Proof?
"There is no evidence that any influenza vaccine, thus far developed, is effective in preventing or mitigating any attack of influenza. The producers of these vaccines know that they are worthless, but they go on selling them anyway."
That is a direct quote from the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) former Chief Vaccine Control Officer Dr. J. Anthony Morris. Dr. Morris made this statement during the notorious swine flu madness of 1976. The Federal government launched a nationwide fear campaign, claiming that deadly swine flu would decimate the country in a horrific replay of the 1918 flu pandemic that killed 50 million people worldwide. Flu shots were hyped as the only thing that could protect against such tragic consequences.
Terrified, millions of Americans got the recommended vaccines. But the epidemic never happened. More than five hundred people, however, developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a serious, debilitating autoimmune disorder, after being vaccinated, and at least 25 people died.
That was 35 years ago, and how little things have changed! Here's a snippet from a study published recently in the prestigious British Medical Journal concluding: "Evidence from systematic reviews shows that inactivated vaccines have little or no effect..." The same report also declared studies showing flu vaccines to be of poor quality and further noted, "Little comparative evidence exists on the safety of these vaccines."
Are You at Risk?
By now, it should be clear that the value of flu shots is questionable at best. As Gary's experience (and that of many others) shows, the shot is no guarantee that you'll be protected from illness. But why can't flu shots be made effective?
Part of the problem is that no one knows exactly which of the many strains of flu in existence may be headed our way in a certain year. Experts can make educated guesses based on history, but that's all they are -- guesses. And since flu viruses can mutate quickly, concocting a vaccine based on what happened during the past few years and what might happen in the coming year is obviously an iffy proposition.
Here's another important consideration -- your chances of getting the flu, with or without a shot, are low. And chances that the flu will be lethal are even lower. During the two largest flu epidemics in the recent past (1957 and 1968) millions of people became ill, but the vast majority of them recovered. In addition, the mortality rate for both of these epidemics combined was 0.1% of the U.S. population. No one wants to become part of that tragic statistic, but clearly we cannot assume that a flu shot will prevent that from happening.
As a doctor, I was curious about what those who succumbed to the flu might have in common. I expected to see the standard statistics showing that the very young, sickly and very old were hardest hit by influenza. In part, that was the case. Most fatalities occurred among individuals who were already ill. But it's not the whole story. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that one of the highest risk groups turned out to be obese individuals.
Why would that be? Experts speculate that people with excess weight may be more vulnerable to severe flu symptoms due to complications from cardiovascular disease and/or asthma, both commonly seen in obese people. Furthermore, ongoing, low-level inflammation caused by fat cell secretions also may play a role. In addition, the obese tend to have less efficient lung functions, as well as insulin resistance, complicating medical treatment. Some or all of these factors are believed to play a role.
Been There, Tried That
Remember the panic over H1N1 flu a couple of years ago -- the one the media insisted was a terrifying pandemic in the making? We were told that since swine and bird flus had combined with human flu viruses, the results would be lethal. The World Health Organization (WHO) even raised the worldwide pandemic phase to 6, the highest level available. Good grief, the fear mongering alone was enough to make anyone sick.
Fortunately, researchers figured out early on that fatality estimates were grossly overblown. Instead of the four deaths per 1,000 flu cases in the original estimate, the actual figure turned out to be somewhere between 1 in 10,000 and 1 in 100,000.
Then an interesting thing happened. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed blood samples from earlier years to determine vaccine effectiveness. According to the CDC's own report:
"These data suggest that receipt of recent (2005-2009) seasonal influenza vaccines is unlikely to elicit a protective antibody response to the novel influenza A (H1N1) virus." But wait... there's more!
In an editorial note attached to the report, the CDC experts admitted that fully one-third of the adults over the age of 60 already had protective H1N1 antibodies, most likely because they had been exposed to the virus earlier in life. So flu shots for individuals age 60 and older were largely redundant.
One Shot, Too Many Toxins
Finally, let's take a look at three additional aspects of flu vaccines that you really need to know about to make an informed decision.
First, there's the fact that new vaccines are tested for a mere one-to-three weeks before being released to the public. Rushing products to market with inadequate testing is rarely a good idea.
Second, know that flu shots are a toxic stew of chemicals that no one should be ingesting.
Here's a very partial list of flu shot ingredients:
• Ethylene glycol, the scientific name for antifreeze.
• Formaldehyde, nicknamed "the embalmer's friend."
• Aluminum, a known carcinogen with links to Alzheimer's disease.
• Thimerosal, a form of mercury, the most toxic of all the heavy metals.
Let's take a closer look at just one of these ingredients, thimerosal. Ostensibly, thimerosal is a preservative. Once a staple in children's vaccines, thimerosal is no longer given to children in this country due to safety concerns. It is, however, still in some flu vaccines.
High levels of mercury in the body affect everything, but especially the neurological system, causing memory issues, emotional disturbances, sensory and co-ordination difficulties, vertigo, and a long list of other problems. This is why I recommend eating fish only occasionally. The health benefits of fish are outweighed by the toxic impact of mercury found in most fish these days.
If you're thinking that the amount of mercury in a small dose of vaccine is far less than what you might get in a few plates of sushi, you're right. In the case of mercury, however, even vaccine-sized dosage amounts have been shown to damage human brain cells.
To make matters worse, mercury tends to accumulate in the brain. So an annual vaccination just adds to whatever mercury may already be in your body. Furthermore, mercury decomposes, creating even more toxic substances. Finally, many scientists are concerned about the fact that there have been no studies evaluating the combination of mercury and aluminum, two common vaccine ingredients, in the body.
How You Can Protect Yourself From the Flu
Maybe you've already had a shot or aren't convinced that you can go without. That's fine. We each need to be comfortable with the decisions we make. At least now you have the information you need to evaluate both sides of the argument and choose what's right for you.
If you chose not to get a flu shot, there are simple steps you can take to avoid coming down with the flu. I find the best way to protect yourself from the flu is to simply bolster your immune system -- which has the double benefit of not only warding off the flu, but also keeping other illnesses at bay.
I put together a free special report for my subscribers that contains six simple steps I tell my patients they can follow on a day-to-day basis to specifically bolster their immune system. Of course, these are all things you should be doing on top of eating healthy, drinking plenty of water, taking targeting nutritional supplements and maintaining a positive outlook on life. I encourage you to download it now.
Thrive in Health & Wellness,
Leigh Erin Connealy, M.D.