The Flu Is Coming

It seems like as the seasons change so do our health concerns; in spring its allergies, the summer equals too much sun-exposure, and in the fall and winter—the evil, the unstoppable, the insidious—FLU! What to do? Run out and get a flu shot? According to some in the medical community the shot is the only way to go. Angela Pirisi of HealthDay News reports:
"The best way to guard against the flu is to get vaccinated, which helps to protect you, your loved ones, and your community," says Dr. Jeanne Santoli, deputy director of the Immunization Services Division at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Pirisi’s article points out that this year over 100-million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed. They’re going to need them because as Pirisi reports the Center for Disease Control recommends that children ages 24 to 59 months should be vaccinated. And the American Heart Association recommends vaccination for children ages 6 to 59 months. So, is the flu shot your best defense against the flu?

Surprise, surprise around this time last year Dr. Fuhrman talked about this very topic, and he’d be hard-pressed to consider vaccination as the go-to option for flu prevention. Here’s an excerpt from the post Six Steps to Protect Your Family from Avian Flu:
What about antiviral drugs and flu vaccinations?
Three antiviral drugs, amantadine (Symmetrel), rimantadine (Flumadine), and oseltamivir (Tamiflu) are available in the US for influenza. These medications are only partially effective and not effective at all unless they are started within the first two days of symptoms. All are prescription drugs and have serious potential risks. Besides the more common side effects of nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and insomnia, rare but serious adverse reactions have been reported including depression, suicide, and a potentially fatal reaction called Neuroleptic Malignant Syndrome, which involves a high fever muscle rigidity and mental status changes. I cannot recommend the general use of these medications given their poor benefit-to-risk ratio. However these medications would be appropriate in the event of an outbreak in a nursing home or hospital where immunologically weakened, high risk people are in close contact with one another.

Another drawback to Tamiflu and the others is that it takes time to diagnose the flu and by the time one gets to a doctor for an accurate diagnosis, you have passed the window in which the medications are effective. Hundreds of thousands of doses of Tamiflu will be prescribed and in more than 90 percent of instances, it will be used after the period when it has any potential to help. People will be increasing their risk of medication-caused side effect, without any potential benefit.

All medical interventions have a benefit-to-risk ratio. One has to weigh the potential risks with the supposed benefits. Often the long-term risks of medications are not clearly delineated and the supposed benefits are exaggerated by doctors and pharmaceutical companies (because after all, medicine is still a business to make money).

Flu vaccines have benefits and risks too. If you read about the flu vaccine in the information supplied by the manufacturer you will learn it contains formaldehyde and 25 micrograms of thimersol (mercury) per dose, used as a preservative. The injection of even this small amount of mercury repeatedly year after year from multiple vaccines can cause neurotoxicity (brain damage). The American Academy of Pediatrics and the US Public Health Service have issued a joint statement calling for the removal of mercury from vaccines. Chronic low dose mercury exposures may cause subtle neurological abnormalities that rear their head later in life.

Considering all the vaccines that children get already, adding the flu to the mix and giving it each year, is something I am not ready to recommend in healthy children, fed a nutritionally sound diet. That does not mean I would not recommend it to an elderly person or one with a reason for compromised immune function.

The flu vaccine itself has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential and animal reproductive studies have not been performed. Adverse reactions to the vaccine including arthralgias (muscle aches) lymphadenopathy (swelling of lymph nodes) itching, angiopathy, vasculitis, and other events reflective of toxicity. Allergic reaction, hives, anaphylaxis, neurological disorders such as neuritis, encephalitis, optic neuritis, and demylenating disorders (such as MS) have also been temporally associated with influenza vaccine. The Avian Flu fear-ademic may drive thousands to their doctors for flu vaccines, without realizing that the present vaccines have not been designed to offer any protection against the Avian flu.
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Comments (9) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Leanne - September 29, 2006 12:29 AM

I also worry about the fact that all these vaccines do not give a person's immune system a chance to develop and strengthen. How are we to develop strength against the 'superbugs' if our immune system is not given 'practice' against the minor bugs?

I am no medical expert, but it seems clear to me that we are overvaccinated at a tremendous rate in the western world, and I do not believe that the outcome of this will be positive overall.

Flea - October 8, 2006 7:01 AM

This is a reprehensible post.

There is no evidence whatsoever that influenza vaccine does harm - None whatsoever. To the contrary, the vaccine saves lives, on the order of magnitude of thousands every year. There is elegant evidence in the literature to suggest that the 3-4-5 year olds are the population where epidemic flu begins, followed by 1-2 months by the 65+ generation, who then die of the disease.

What you gave was incorrect, misleading, and irresponsible advice.

Shame on you!


Doctor X - October 8, 2006 10:25 PM

Your post is entirely irresponsible - you should be ashamed of yourself. I hope that you don't take care of children.

Here is a quote from the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) 2004 Policy Statement on Influenza Immunization of Children:

"Young, healthy children are at high risk of hospitalization for influenza infection; therefore the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends influenza immunization of healthy children between 6 and 24 months of age (evidence grade II-3)."

Readers should also look at the IOM (Institute of Medicine) report which states that the hypothesis that exposure to thimerosal-containing vaccines could be associated with neurodevelopmental disorders is not established and rests on indirect and incomplete evidence.

Now, it took me about 2 minutes of looking to find this clear deviation between what your website states and what is clearly the standard of care for immunization for children for influenza.

Moreover, the fact that this post was not written by Dr. Furhman, but instead by Gerald Pugliese, who wields not an MD, but a bachelor's degree in business and an aspiration to be a comedy writer, adds insult to injury.

For whoever reads this post, please, PLEASE, talk to a real doctor before making a decision to not immunize your child against the flu.

TC - October 9, 2006 2:31 PM

Why is it that when someone even questions the safety of vaccines, they're labeled a kook? If the studies are inconclusive, that doesn't mean it's safe to give them, it means we need more studies. Go ask the CDC about the control groups for vaccine studies. They use people on old vaccine as a control-so how real are those results. And the same pediatricians who NEVER question the drug companies are wishy washy about breast feeding, which is the first vaccine your child should ever get.

Moel - October 9, 2006 3:38 PM

The hysterical response of Flea and Doctor X to criticism of flu vaccines reminds me of the fulminations of company PR agents to any threat to the company's profits. Language like "incorrect, misleading, irresponsible, shame, indirect and incomplete evidence, standard care, real doctor (read 'company salesman')", etc. are emotive language intended to fool people and provoke hostility, not to inform. We heard the same language from defenders of fluoridation, pesticide spraying and smoking. It was well established that Swine Flu was a hoax. Maybe they all are. Most people get all kinds of shots by conditioned reflex, but those of us who can still think should consider the real effects and who profits from it.

Hyperion - October 10, 2006 2:18 AM

Lemme introduce you to a concept called "herd immunity."

One doesn't necessarily make a decision on which groups to vaccinate based on likelyhood of catching the disease or likelyhood that infection will lead to death, but also based on likelyhood of acting as a carrier.

The single best method for preventing a pandemic is creating a herd immunity that can retard the spread of the infection. Once contained, antiviral treatment for those infected would then become paramount. This is sort of like how water or dirt may quench a forest fire, but you have to stop it from spreading first.

Of course, even a cursory understanding of basic public health policy would have made that point fairly clearly.

Finally, someone complained that we appear to be overvaccinated in the Western World. Regardless of whether this is true or not, don't advanced industrialized countries with robust public health systems with mandatory vaccination tend to have much longer life expectancies? In fact, hasn't there been a sharp surge in life expectancy and a remarkable drop in child mortality since the advent of vaccinations?

I don't know, I liked being able to grow up without worrying about polio or smallpox, y'know, having all my friends survive with me to adulthood was the kind of thrill that my grandparents certainly didn't get to experience.

Pam - October 24, 2006 4:12 PM

I'm a believer in vaccines 99 percent of the time. In the 18th and 19th centuries couples would be lucky if half of their children lived into adulthood, so hooray for medical science, but I'm skipping the flu shot for myself this year. I have lupus (SLE) and every year I get the flu shot and get an uncomfortable reaction to it- usually flu-like symptoms. Last year was the worst- I was nauseous for almost a month and I swore...never again! Of course, my doctor looks at me funny when I tell him my symptoms are from the flu shot. But I'm not going through another episode like last year. I'll take my chances with the flu.

M Heitz - December 27, 2007 8:04 AM

After being a nurse for 27 years I have administered flu vaccines, but I myself have never had one. I agree with the majority of what Dr. Fuhrman has said. Also I have taken care of several patients with Guillian-Barre Syndrome and that was the determining factor that I never received a vaccine. It is a personal choice and for me being a health care worker I am glad it is not mandatory such as the Hepatitis B Vaccine is.

Iain - October 26, 2009 9:24 PM

So the nurse says don't take the vaccine. Then the thought comes to mind, stay healthy and don't get sick!

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