Is the Flu Vaccine Really ‘Working Well’ This Year?

Written by 
Joseph <>Mercola

Story at-a-glance

    * According to interim estimates, the overall 
adjusted effectiveness of the 2018-19 flu vaccine 
against all influenza virus infection associated 
with acute respiratory illness (ARI) needing medical attention was 47 percent
    * Among adults over 50, the vaccine had a 
mere 24 percent effectiveness against all 
influenza types, and an abysmal 8 percent against 
influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 infection, which was by far the most common type
    * Of all who came down with ARI, only 14 
percent actually had influenza. In the vast 
majority of cases ­ 86 percent ­ their 
respiratory illness was caused by something other than an influenza virus
    * There are more than 200 viruses that cause 
influenza-like illness with identical symptoms as 
influenza, such as fever, headache, aches, pains, 
cough and runny nose. The flu vaccine does not prevent these illnesses
    * Research published last year found people 
who had received a flu shot and contracted 
influenza shed a greater amount of influenza 
viruses through their breath than unvaccinated people

According to interim estimates1 released by the 
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 
(CDC) on February 15, 2019 ­ which uses data from 
3,254 adults and children enrolled in the U.S. 
Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Network between 
November 23, 2018, and February 2, 2019 ­ the 
overall adjusted effectiveness of the 2018-19 flu 
vaccine against all influenza virus infection 
associated with acute respiratory illness (ARI) 
needing medical attention was 47 percent.

While the media has played this up as "good 
news,"2 and the CDC calls the results 
"encouraging,"3 the fact of the matter is the 
vaccine failed to offer any protection more than 
half of the time, and for adults over 50, it's more or less useless.

This Year's Flu Vaccine Is an Abysmal Failure for Those Over 50

Among children aged 6 months to 17 years, the 
2018–19 seasonal flu vaccine had an average 
effectiveness of 61 percent.4 However, among 
adults over 50, which is the most vulnerable 
group, the vaccine had a mere 24 percent 
effectiveness against all influenza types, and an 
abysmal 8 percent against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 
infection, which was by far the most common type.

According to the CDC, the A(H1N1)pdm09 virus was 
responsible for 74 percent of all influenza A 
infections for which subtype information was 
available. What's more, the CDC notes that,5 
"Among the 3,254 children and adults with ARI … a 
total of 465 (14 percent) tested positive for 
influenza virus by real time RT-PCR …"

In other words, of all the people who came down 
with acute respiratory illness, only 14 percent 
actually had confirmed 
In the vast majority of cases ­ 86 percent ­ 
their respiratory illness was associated with a 
viral or bacterial infection caused by something 
other than a type A or B influenza virus.

This is important to remember, as people have a 
tendency to jump to the conclusion that when they 
have influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms they 
have influenza when, in fact, chances are the majority of the time they don't.

The influenza vaccine contains only three or four 
type A or B vaccine strain influenza viruses. 
Even if those vaccine strain viruses are a 
perfect match for influenza viruses that are 
circulating in a given flu season, the vaccine 
does not prevent the majority of other 
respiratory infections that are experienced by 
people. As noted by the Cochrane Collaboration:6

"Over 200 viruses cause ILI (influenza-like 
illness), which produces the same symptoms 
(fever, headache, aches, pains, cough and runny 
nose) as influenza. Without laboratory tests, 
doctors cannot distinguish between ILI and 
influenza because both last for days and rarely 
cause serious illness or death."

The 2017/2018 seasonal influenza vaccine's 
adjusted overall effectiveness for the U.S. was 
just 36 percent against influenza A and influenza 
B virus infection,7,8 and between 2005 and 2015, 
the flu vaccine's adjusted overall effectiveness 
was less than 50 percent more than half the time 
­ with a low of only 10 percent in the 2004-05 season.9,10

It's difficult to find another example of where a 
commercial product can fail to work more than 
half the time and still be recommended and even 
mandated for children and adults.

Obesity Is a Major Cause of Influenza Outbreaks and Vulnerability

In related news, research suggests widespread 
obesity may be a significant contributor to 
influenza outbreaks and general vulnerability, as 
makes you shed and transmit virus for a longer 
period of time, thereby increasing the 
opportunity for spreading infections to others. 
According to this study,11 published in the 
September, 2018 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases:

"[O]besity increases the risk of severe 
complications and death from influenza virus 
infection, especially in elderly individuals … 
Symptomatic obese adults were shown to shed 
influenza A virus 42 percent longer than nonobese 
adults … no association was observed with 
influenza B virus shedding duration. Even among 
paucisymptomatic and asymptomatic adults, obesity 
increased the influenza A shedding duration by 104 percent."

Aubree Gordon, Ph.D., senior author from the 
University of Michigan School of Public Health, 
told reporters,12 "This is the first real 
evidence that obesity might impact more than just 
disease severity. It might directly impact transmission as well."

Additional research is underway to analyze 
whether influenza virus shed over longer periods 
is still equally infectious. The answer here, of 
course, would be to 
your weight and 
your immune function. You can find more 
information about these strategies in the hyperlinked articles.

Flu Vaccine Still Allows Transmission of Disease

Obesity isn't the only thing that might 
contribute to influenza outbreaks. A study13 
published in the journal PNAS January 18, 2018, 
found infectious influenza viruses in the exhaled 
breath of people who had gotten seasonal flu 
shots and contracted influenza. Those vaccinated 
two seasons in a row had an even greater viral 
load of shedding influenza A viruses. According to the authors:

"Self-reported vaccination for the current season 
was associated with a trend toward higher viral 
shedding in fine-aerosol samples; vaccination 
with both the current and previous year's 
seasonal vaccines, however, was significantly 
associated with greater fine-aerosol shedding in 
unadjusted and adjusted models.

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."

Mounting Body of Research Questions Validity of 
Annual Flu Vaccination as a Public Health Measure

On the whole, there's really very little evidence 
to suggest annual flu vaccinations are a good way 
to combat influenza and save lives. On the 
contrary, the medical literature is burgeoning 
with studies questioning the validity of this 
public health measure. For example, studies have shown that:

With each successive annual flu vaccination, the 
theoretical protection from the vaccine can 
diminish14 ­ A 2012 Chinese study15 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 over age 9 
years in the U.S. was greatest among those who 
had NOT received a flu shot in the previous five years.16

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,17 which was explained as follows:18

"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."

71 people have to be vaccinated for a single case 
of influenza to be avoided, and vaccination has 
"little or no appreciable effect on 
hospitalizations or number of working days lost" 
­ In its 2014 meta-analysis19 of the available 
research on inactivated influenza vaccines, the 
Cochrane Collaboration reviewed evidence related 
to influenza and influenza-like illness (ILI) 
that people experience during flu seasons, concluding that:

"Injected influenza vaccines probably have a 
small protective effect against influenza … as 71 
people would need to be vaccinated to avoid one 
influenza case … Vaccination may have little or 
no appreciable effect on hospitalizations … or number of working days lost."

The flu vaccine can increase your risk of 
contracting other, more serious influenza 
infections ­ Canadian researchers found that 
people who had received the seasonal flu vaccine 
in 2008, on average, had 
the risk of getting sick with the pandemic H1N1 
"swine flu" in 2009 compared to those who did not 
receive a flu shot the previous year.20

These findings were replicated in a 2014 ferret 
study.21 Similarly, a 2009 U.S. study compared 
health outcomes for children between age 6 months 
and 18 years who did and did not get annual flu 
shots and found that children who received 
influenza vaccinations had a three times' higher 
risk of influenza-related hospitalization, with 
asthmatic children at greatest risk.22

The concept of heterologous immunity may account 
for these findings. Heterologous immunity refers 
to the concept that your immune system is 
directional, and that once you've encountered a 
pathogen, your body is better equipped to fight 
pathogens that are similar. However, in the case 
of influenza vaccines, this directionality appears to work against you.

By learning to fend off certain influenza virus 
strains contained in the vaccine, your immune 
system becomes less able to fend off other 
influenza strains and disease-causing pathogens. 
As noted in a 2014 paper on heterologous immunity:23

"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."

In other words, while influenza vaccine may offer 
some level of protection against the three or 
four viral influenza strains included in the 
vaccine, depending on whether the vaccine used is 
trivalent or quadrivalent, it may simultaneously 
diminish your ability to ward off infection by 
other influenza strains and types of viral or bacterial infections.

Heterologous immunity is also addressed in a 2013 
paper,24 which notes that "vaccines modulate 
general resistance," and "have nonspecific 
effects on the ability of the immune system to 
handle other pathogens." Researchers 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."

Flu vaccine doesn't work well in statin users ­ 
drugs may interfere with your immune system's 
ability to respond to the influenza vaccine.25,26 
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.27 Antibody concentrations were 
also reduced in younger people who took statins.

Flu vaccine does not prevent most types of 
influenza ­ Independent scientific reviews have 
also concluded that flu shots have only a "modest 
effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working 
days lost," and have no effect on complications of influenza.28,29

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.30,31,32,33,34

Vaccination does not lower mortality in the 
elderly ­ Research35 published in 2006 analyzed 
mortality among the elderly population in Italy 
associated with increased vaccination coverage 
between 1970 and 2001. Researchers found that 
after the 1980s, there was no corresponding 
decline in excess deaths, despite rising vaccine uptake.

According to the authors, "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 study36 showed that, even though 
seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 
reduced risk of dying during flu season compared 
to unvaccinated seniors, those who were 
vaccinated were also even more unlikely 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.

"New and improved" flu shot also fails to protect 
seniors ­ The 
vaccine introduced during the 2017-2018 flu 
season is grown in dog kidney cells rather than 
chicken eggs. Touted as a new-and-improved flu 
shot that would protect more people, Food and 
Drug Administration 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.37

Flu vaccine does not lessen influenza severity ­ 
While health officials claim getting a flu shot 
will lessen your symptoms should you contract 
influenza, a 2017 study38 by French researchers 
assessing the veracity of that claim found it to 
be false. 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. As early as 2003, the CDC recognized the 
flu vaccine causes an excess of 1.7 cases of GBS 
per 1 million people vaccinated.39

Data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human 
Services shows GBS is the top injury for which 
people are receiving financial compensation 
through the federal vaccine injury compensation 
program (VICP), and the flu vaccine is now the 
most common vaccine cited by adults seeking a 
vaccine injury compensation award.40

Shoulder damage is another risk, caused by 
improper injection technique.41,42,43 
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 of the VICP in 2017.44,45 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.

Why Pregnant Women Should Avoid the Flu Vaccine

In recent years, pregnant women have been told to 
get a pertussis-containing Tdap vaccination and 
an influenza vaccination during each pregnancy.46 
According to federal guidelines, the flu shot can 
be given during any trimester.47 This is 
irresponsible public health policy, as there's a 
shocking lack of scientific studies to confirm 
the safety of that policy for mother and child.48

For starters, drug companies did not test the 
safety and effectiveness of giving influenza 
vaccine to pregnant women before the vaccines 
were licensed in the U.S.,49,50 and data on 
inflammatory and other biological responses to 
vaccination during pregnancy that could affect 
pregnancy and birth outcomes is still lacking.51

As far as the scientific evidence is concerned, 
it's still unknown whether the influenza vaccine 
can cause fetal harm or affect your reproductive 
capacity,52 which is why the vaccine manufacturer 
product inserts state that the influenza vaccine 
should only be given to a pregnant woman if it's "clearly needed."

Pregnant women are essentially expected to stick 
to recommendations of the Centers for Disease 
Control (CDC) and medical trade associations out 
of sheer faith, since vaccine recommendations are 
not based on weighty scientific evidence. In 
fact, health statistics suggest there's something 
very wrong going on in the U.S., seeing how we 
have one of the highest 
and infant mortality rates in the world.

As of last year, global rates for maternal 
mortality had fallen by half ­ except in the 
U.S., where the number of women who die from 
pregnancy-related complications has significantly 
increased.53 Infant mortality rates are also far 
higher in the U.S. than in any of the other 27 
wealthy countries surveilled by the Centers for 
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).54

Could this be related to the fact that American 
babies and pregnant women receive the greatest 
number of vaccines? While there's no research 
clearly proving this, there's also no evidence to 
refute the hypothesis that excessive vaccinations may be part of the problem.

While limited, there is at least some evidence 
that getting the flu vaccine during pregnancy may 
put that pregnancy at risk. Initial suspicions 
were raised in 2009, when reports of miscarriage 
following administration of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine started emerging.55

Dozens of women claimed they lost their babies 
just hours or days after getting the vaccine, 
which had not been tested on pregnant women or, 
if it was, the evidence was never published. Not 
surprisingly, these instances were passed off as 
coincidental. After all, miscarriages do happen, 
and for any number of different reasons.

Then, a CDC-funded study56 published in September 
2017, found that women who had received the 2009 
pandemic swine flu (pH1N1) vaccine containing 
influenza shot two years in a row were indeed 
more likely to suffer miscarriage within the following 28 days.

While most of the miscarriages occurred during 
the first trimester, several also took place in 
the second trimester. 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 their babies to term.

Of the 485 women who miscarried, 17 had been 
vaccinated twice in a row ­ once in the 28 days 
prior to vaccination 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, 
which was funded by the Centers for Disease 
Control and Prevention (CDC), Amanda Cohn, CDC adviser for vaccines stated:57

"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."

Despite those findings, the CDC has not made any 
changes to its recommendation for pregnant women.

Vitamin D Substantially Outperforms Flu Vaccine

Is the flu vaccine really the most effective way 
to protect yourself against influenza, despite 
being less than 50 percent effective overall? 
Studies have repeatedly demonstrated the 
excellent track record of 
D for preventing respiratory infections.

For example, a 2017 scientific review58 of 25 
randomized controlled trials found that vitamin D 
supplementation cut rates of acute respiratory 
infections among all participants. Overall, the 
number needed to treat (NNT) was 33, meaning that 
for every 33 people taking a vitamin D 
supplement, one person was spared from acute 
respiratory infection. (And, remember, the NNT 
for the flu vaccine preventing a single case of influenza is 71.59)

Among those with severe 
D deficiency at baseline, the NNT was 4. Those 
with blood levels below 10 ng/mL, which is a 
serious deficiency state, cut their risk of 
infection by half, while 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.60 In my view, optimizing your 
vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best 
strategies available to prevent respiratory illness of all kinds.

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