As seen in Paleo Movement Online Magazine (www.paleomovement.com)The passing of the Labor Day holiday and the start of the new school year marks the arrival of influenza vaccination season. You may have already noticed a few advertisements urging you to, “Remember to get your flu shot!” The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone older than 6 months of age get a flu vaccine, ideally by October. Vaccination of any type is a personal decision and one that should be made with a full understanding of the risks and benefits. Unfortunately, all too often, patients are not presented with facts concerning flu vaccines that may help them to make an informed decision. Due to the powerful influence of the pharmaceutical industry, many health care providers obtain their education about influenza vaccines (and other medications as well) from none other than the manufacturers themselves. Manufacturers may maintain that their goal is to prevent illness and deaths from the flu, but it is undeniable that they also want to sell vaccines. The end result is that even your health care provider may not be knowledgeable about many of the facts concerning flu vaccinations. So, if you’re asking yourself, “Should I get the flu shot this season?”, consider the following:
1.) The flu vaccine does not target all types or strains of flu. There are three main types of influenza viruses: Influenza A, B, and C. Flu viruses mutate and evolve rapidly and there are currently over 200 known strains of influenza. The World Health Organization (WHO) monitors the circulating strains of influenza and determines which are the most likely to pose a threat during the coming flu season. Based on this prediction, a new flu vaccine is formulated each year. Until recently, the flu vaccine was intended to target only 3 strains of the flu. A fourth strain will be available in about 20% vaccines for the 2013 – 2014 season. Only strains of influenza A and B types are included in flu vaccines, as influenza C is generally thought to cause milder illness. Even under the best conditions, the flu vaccine may cover only 10% of the circulating strains of viruses that cause influenza and influenza-like illnesses.
The flu vaccine serves as a one-size-fits-all solution, although there are many different strains of flu and regional differences in strains are not taken into account. According to the CDC,
“In some years when vaccine and circulating strains were not well-matched, no vaccine effectiveness may be able to be demonstrated. It is not possible in advance of the influenza season to predict how well the vaccine and circulating strains will be matched, and how that may affect vaccine effectiveness.”
Even when the WHO predications are correct, there is a possibility that the vaccine will not offer full protection against an intended target strain because of the rapidly evolving nature of the virus.
2.) The flu shot has not been proven to be effective in preventing the flu or flu-related complications. Several Cochrane reviews (the gold standard for independent, unbiased reviews of medical research) have noted a lack of effectiveness of the flu vaccine in actually preventing the flu or complications from the flu. In healthy children, a review found that there was no evidence that the inactivated flu vaccine was any more effective than a placebo in children less than 2 years of age. A review that assessed the effectiveness of flu vaccines in healthy adults found that vaccination had no effect on hospitalizations or the number of working days lost due to the flu. In adults older than 65 years of age, conclusions on the effectiveness of the flu vaccine could not be drawn “due to the poor quality of available evidence”. All Cochrane reviews on flu vaccinations cite concerns about the clear biases of studies that are funded by the vaccine manufacturers, which tend to dominate the available research.
3.) Flu vaccines contain a variety of toxic preservatives and additives, as well as other surprising ingredients. All multi-dose vials of the flu vaccine, which comprise 80-90% of all doses administered, contain thimerosal, which is 49% mercury by volume. Mercury is a neurotoxin that has known negative effects on the brain, spinal cord, liver, and kidneys. A typical multi-dose flu vaccine contains 25mcg of thimerosal, which surpasses the Environmental Protective Agency’s safe upper limit for mercury exposure for anyone who weighs less than 120kg (264lb). Single dose vials of the flu vaccine do not contain thimerosal, but these doses are supposed to be reserved for infants and pregnant women. If you are considering a flu vaccination and you are pregnant or have a young child, you should insist upon a single dose vaccination, as it is not safe to assume that your health care provider is aware of this fact.
Flu vaccine ingredients often include formaldehyde and/or beta-propiolactone as antimicrobial agents. Both of these substances are known carcinogens. Octoxynol-10 (TRITON X-100), a detergent used in heavy-duty industrial cleaning products, is present in many flu vaccines. Flu vaccines also contain either egg or hydrolyzed porcine (pig) gelatin, which is important to know if you are sensitive to these proteins. The vaccines may contain a variety of antibiotics to prevent bacterial contamination. You can view the many other ingredients used in flu vaccines by visiting the National Vaccine Information Center and selecting the Vaccine Ingredients Calculator.
Before you get a flu vaccine this season, make sure to do more research into the risks and benefits of vaccination. The flu vaccine is not benign, as it contains many extremely toxic substances. In addition, flu vaccination may not be effective in preventing influenza. While influenza can be a serious illness, the best protection against the flu is keeping your immune system strong to ward off infection. You can do this by following a traditional, whole food diet, such as a Paleo nutrition template, that is high in vitamins and minerals that nourish the body and support the immune system. Staying adequately hydrated and paying particular attention to vitamins A, C, and D may also help to prevent the flu, as well as washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your eyes, mouth, and nose, and covering your mouth and nose with a tissue (or using the crock of your elbow) when coughing and sneezing.
How do you plan to prevent the flu this season?