Health News – Sushma Shah, Naturopathic Doctor
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Should You Be Getting The Flu Shot?

Its that time of the year where its getting colder and windy, people are coming into work with the sniffles, which you are trying to avoid like the plague, right? And you think, I should go get my flu shot or should you?

Lets start with the basics about what the flu is all about. We will then discuss what the flu shot is, and how effective it is, and then you can decide if you should be getting the “FLU SHOT” or if you should look at alternatives.

 What is influenza?

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory infection that is caused by a virus. It is most common during the winter months. Symptoms include fever, chills, runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, muscle ache, fatigue and decreased appetite. The most common treatment for the infection is to let it run its course with the symptoms, which will usually improve within 2 to 3 days. You can certainly try to improve or shorten this duration with naturopathic / homeopathic treatments as well, hope remedies such as chicken soup, ginger teas and inhalations, along with lots of bed rest and drinking lots of fluids. Antibiotics at this stage will not subdue the virus.

How dangerous is the flu?

The flu can lead to complications mainly in high risk groups such as the elderly and other people with pre-existing medical problems such as heart, lung or kidney dysfunctions. People with diabetes, anemia or compromised immune functions are also at a higher risk for developing complications. The high- risk groups may develop complications such as pneumonia and in severe cases can lead to fatalities.

How prevalent is the flu?

Thousands of people every year contract the flu virus and is a common ailment. There are three types of the Flu virus that can cause the flu. Each of these types has an amazing potential to mutate or change rapidly, making it very difficult to develop an immunity to the disease.

How is the flu vaccine made?

Early in the beginning of each year, authorities travel overseas to assess the composition of the current flu viruses that are circulating. They project that these certain flu viruses will arrive in North America later that year during “flu season” and instruct flu vaccine manufacturers to include those particular strains in their vaccines. To develop a flu vaccine, chick embryos must be inoculated with influenza viruses and from there the mixture is cultivated for several weeks. Each flu strain is then inactivated with formaldehyde and preserved with a derivative of mercury called thimerosal (mercury is a neurological toxin!). Flu vaccines may also contain other substances such as polyethylene glycol, polysorbate 80, hydrocortisone, neomycin and polymyxin (antibiotics), sodium deoxycholate, MSG, and “porcine” (pig) gelatin. The three strains of the virus are then blended into one vaccine, which is licensed by the FDA and distributed by the manufacturers, without ANY requirement for a scientific control-group for testing.

How safe is the flu vaccine?

Serious reactions to the flu vaccine include allergies to some of the vaccine “ingredients” which can be life threatening. Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS), a severe paralytic disease can also occur several weeks after getting the flu vaccine and is fatal in 1 of every 20 victims. Numerous studies have investigated and documented other serious adverse reactions to the vaccine such as encephalopathy, brainstem encephalitis, polyneuritis, optic neuritis, myelitis, vasculitis, myelopathy, facial paralysis, brachial plexus neuropathy, reactive arthritis, bullous pemphigoid, polymyalgia rheumatica, uveitis, Gianotti-Crosti syndrome, pericarditis, polyangitis, thrombocytopenia, cellulitis, myositis and “asthmatic exacerbations” in people with a history of asthma.

  In a large study conducted on children 5 years of age or older, who were vaccinated with the live-virus nasal spray flu vaccine, were shown to cause a statistically significant increase in asthma or reactive airways disease causing symptoms of wheezing and pneumonia.3% of the children between the ages of 6 months to 1 year were hospitalized with respiratory problems and for those vaccinated with the inactivated flu vaccine in this age group, 1 out of every 100 children had to be rushed to the hospital. Children from 6 months to 2 years had to be hospitalized for nearly 5 days requiring bronchodilators and steroids.

 How efficient is the flu vaccine?

Given that researchers travel overseas early in the year to predict which strains will travel to North America much later in the year, most of the vaccines produced do not contain the actual strain that ends up circulating as they may have mutated by the time they get here. The “guess work” could often mean that the wrong strain was picked or the circulating flu virus likely mutated between January and the later months, making the new vaccine useless!

Even when a good match is made between the strains, making up the vaccine and with the current flu virus circulating at that time, immunity from the shot is short-lived as antibody levels begin to decrease and are low one year after vaccination. Permanent immunity to a particular strain can only be achieved when the virus is contracted naturally, allowing natural antibodies to form. Each flu vaccine is designed to protect against the three viral strains of that year, and does not protect against respiratory ailments, intestinal disorders, ear infections and microorganisms associated with different diseases such as the cold, all of which are not comprised of in the vaccine.

 Researchers analyzed 51 studies regarding the effectiveness in healthy children involving more than 260,000 persons. In children 2 years of age or older who were administered the live influenza vaccine (nasal spray), it was found to be only 33% effective! Children 2 years of age or older who were administered the inactivated influenza vaccine (shot), only 36% were found to be effective. Lastly, for children under 2 years of age who were administered the inactive vaccine, the vaccine was found to be 0% effective.

An analysis of 25 studies involving thousands of healthy adults under 65 years of age found that the influenza vaccine “did not affect hospital stay, time off from work, or death from influenza and its complications.” A systematic review of 64 studies was carried out over 40 years of the flu vaccine in the elderly. The results showed that for elderly people living in the community, the flu vaccine and protection against the flu was 0% effective as was protection against pneumonia. For elderly people living in a group home, protection against the flu was found to be 0% effective!

So should you be taking the flu shot or should you strengthen your immune function naturally and ride out the symptoms?


**Adapted from Vaccine Safety Manual: For Concerned Families and Healthcare Practitioners by Neil Z. Miller, Foreword by Russell Blaylock, MD**

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