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Research Fails to Support Flu Shot’s Value

by John McDougall, M.D.

Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence by Tom Jefferson in the October 28, 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal reported after a thorough analysis of current research that, “Evidence from systematic reviews shows that inactivated vaccines have little or no effect on the effects measured…Little comparative evidence exists on the safety of these vaccines…Reasons for the current gap between policy and evidence are unclear, but given the huge resources involved, a re-evaluation should be urgently undertaken.”1 

The author argues the reason any benefits are reported for flu vaccines may be that those who get vaccinated are more active, healthier and wealthier people than those who do not get vaccinations—and because of these superior health qualities of these people—not the vaccination—they had better outcomes.

Comment by John McDougall, M.D.: I am often asked whether or not I recommend getting a “flu” shot.  I have changed my opinion on this many times over my thirty-five years of medical practice and I reserve the right to change my opinion again in the future.  As a young doctor in the late 1970s, I ran a general practice during a time when an epidemic of swine flu was predicted—but that viral infection never occurred. However, two of my patients developed permanent paralysis below the waist after immunization with the swine flu vaccine, and some people believe that was not a coincidence.  This left me no longer recommending flu shots.

Years later, after I personally had suffered from a couple of episodes of brutal flu, and when the research I was reading seemed to support flu shots, I began to take a more positive stand.  However, I continued to have concerns about their effectiveness and safety.

The vaccines are based on the three strains of influenza viruses that were common the previous year—they are not based on a virus that will infect people the year they are vaccinated.  Second, these vaccines contain mercury and aluminum.2,3  Mercury is a recognized poison, suspected to be linked to autism; and aluminum is known to be toxic to the nervous system and is involved in the cause of Alzheimer’s disease. The mercury is used as a preservative and the aluminum enhances the immune response to the killed viruses in the vaccine.

A letter to the editor4 that followed questioned the effectiveness of flu shots. The writer pointed out, “A 2005 US National Institutes of Health review of over 30 influenza seasons could not correlate increasing vaccination coverage after 1980 with declining mortality rates in any age group and concluded that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.” 5

Where do I now stand?  For several years I personally did get a flu shot, but the last two I have not.  I now recommend that people who are old and frail err on the side of getting their annual flu shot, because complications, such as pneumonia, from a bout of influenza could easily be fatal. I worry that many people believe the flu shot will protect them from getting a very deadly viral disease known as avian (bird) flu—this is not true.  I also think it is long overdue for the pharmaceutical companies to start making safer vaccines, without the aluminum and mercury.  

1)  Jefferson T. Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence. BMJ. 2006 Oct 28;333(7574):912-5.

2) Joachim Mutter. Side effects of mercury containing vaccines like influenza,, 22 Nov 2006.

3) John Stone. Side effects of mercury containing vaccines like influenza,, 23 Nov 2006.

4) Doshi P. Influenza vaccination: policy versus evidence: policy is in the lead.
BMJ. 2006 Nov 11;333(7576):1020-1.

5)  Simonsen L, Reichert TA, Viboud C, Blackwelder WC, Taylor RJ, Miller MA. Impact of influenza vaccination on seasonal mortality in the US elderly population. Arch Intern Med 2005;165:265-72.

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