Evidence to date suggests that the “H1N1 flu is not a major threat,” and there is little evidence that flu vaccines are effective in preventing the flu, so says Tom Jefferson, MD, arguably the world’s leading expert on influenza vaccines.
Dr. Jefferson has authored 10 reviews of research on the influenza vaccine for the Cochrane Collaboration, which is a widely recognized leading international science institution that evaluates clinical research.
Jefferson notes that Australia has just completed its wintertime, and only 131 deaths related to the flu occurred this year. Because Australia’s population is 22 million people, this death rate is not significant. One does not need to predict the future when the future has already happened somewhere else.
Jefferson’s previous detailed analyses of flu vaccines show very little efficacy in providing real health benefits. Jefferson’s team asserted strongly, “There is not enough evidence to decide whether routine vaccination to prevent influenza in healthy adults is effective.” Jefferson’s research confirmed that flu vaccination did reduce slightly the number of adults experiencing confirmed influenza, but there were increased numbers of adults experiencing “influenza-like illness” (its symptoms are similar to the flu, though are presumably causes by other viruses, not the flu viruses). The bottom line is that the number of adults needing to go to the hospital or take time off work did not change between those adults giving the flu vaccine and those who did not.
Although the media commonly promotes the flu vaccine for children, Jefferson and his research group summarized their investigation on this subject by asserting, “National policies for the vaccination of healthy young children are based on very little evidence.” They expressed strongest concern about the lack of efficacy and safety of flu vaccination of infants two years of age and under. They did note that the flu vaccine is effective in reducing the flu in children over two years of age, but they found little evidence that the flu vaccine was even effective in reducing school absences. Further, they found “no convincing evidence that vaccines can reduce mortality, hospital admissions, serious complications and community transmission of influenza.”
The strongest evidence of benefit to the flu vaccine is in the elderly. However, the researchers found that the benefits to the elderly were “modest.” In fact, the number of flu-related deaths in elderly Americans has actually increased steadily during the past 33-year-period despite the fact that there has been a large increase in flu vaccinations for this population. Only 20% of all elderly Americans had a flu shot in 1980, compared with 65% in 2001.
Jefferson expresses some considerable surprise at how few studies have been conducted on the elderly, especially recently. He notes, “Only five randomly controlled trials have been carried out in elderly people, of which only one was carried out in the past 2 decades using vaccines available today.”
Dr. Jefferson’s team noted that the benefits of the flu vaccine for the elderly are “consistently below those usually quoted for (national policy) decision or economic model making.”
What about the H1N1 Vaccination?
Jefferson had some particularly harsh words about the safety and efficacy of this vaccination. The FDA recently announced the approval of four (!) H1N1 vaccines. And Dr. Jefferson has expressed serious alarm about the “evidence” for the safety and efficacy of these vaccines:
1) The study was tiny, only 240 adults. The authors made reassuring statements about Guillain–Barré syndrome (GBS), which is ridiculous because GBS occurs in one out of 750,000 to 1 million vaccinations, and this study only had 240 participants;
2) One-third of these volunteers had side effects that resembled influenza-like illness (fevers, headaches, sore throats, etc.), so they were vaccinating to prevent symptoms that they were causing;
3) There was no placebo arm in the study, yet there’s no ethical excuse for not having a placebo arm because these are experimental vaccines; and
4) The description of what additive substances were in the vaccine was unclear. We know that there is thimerosal [mercury] in this H1N1 vaccine, but its manufacturer did not say whether there are additional substances like aluminum, which can be found in many other vaccines. We just don’t know. And they are advising this vaccine for pregnant women and children over six months of age!
Is There Really a Pandemic?
Something “fishy” seems to be going on at the World Health Organization (WHO). WHO has declared a “flu pandemic,” in part because they changed their definition of the word “pandemic” in May, 2009.
The earlier version defined pandemic as: “An influenza pandemic occurs when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity, resulting in epidemics worldwide with enormous numbers of deaths and illness [emphasis in the original document].” The NEW definition of pandemic was changed to: “A disease epidemic occurs when there are more cases of that disease than normal. A pandemic is a worldwide epidemic of a disease. An influenza pandemic may occur when a new influenza virus appears against which the human population has no immunity.”
Because flu viruses change on a regular basis, the WHO will declare a new “pandemic” when simply one more death than the “normal” is observed. Big Pharma “warn” people about the yearly possible pandemic, pumping more fear into the hearts and minds of the susceptible and gullible public.
When Jefferson was asked about the “flu pandemic,” he responded directly: “this pandemic really is a commercial operation.”
In light of some recent efforts to make the H1N1 vaccination “mandatory,” it seems that Big Pharma’s commercial operations have become so successful that they have successfully lobbied politicians to require health and medical workers to get the H1N1 vaccine. Big Pharma’s efforts have been so successful that they have almost successfully fooled other scientists to think that it is “unethical” to conduct a placebo-controlled trial due to the (incorrect) assumption that flu vaccines are effective.
Even Big Media whose coffers are filled with Big Pharma’s advertising are not immune to this influence. Isn’t it a bit strange that the research of Tom Jefferson and his team have been virtually ignored by Big Media, despite the fact that their research has been published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal), the Lancet, the Cochrane Database, and other high-impact scientific journals. One would hope that the media and government would follow the research rather than the money.
NOTE OF DISCLOSURE: Although many colleagues in the field of homeopathic medicines are critical of vaccination, a greater number have a similar perspective that I do, that is, they (we) believe that each person and each vaccination has to be evaluated individually and in light of long-term community health. In this light, I should not be determined to be either pro-vaccination or anti-vaccination in over-simplistic terms. Further, because the very “father of immunology,” Emil Adolph von Behring, directly pointed to the origins of immunizations to homeopathy, we homeopaths do not have anything fundamentally against this utilization of the underlying principle of homeopathy, the use of small doses of whatever may cause illness in order to catalyze immune response. When von Behring was asked about the origins of immunology, he responded, "(B)y what technical term could we more appropriately speak of this influence than by Hahnemann's word "homeopathy" (Von Behring, 1906).
 Demicheli V, Di Pietrantonj C, Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Rivetti D. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2007, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD001269. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub3.
 Jefferson T, Rivetti A, Harnden A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V. Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2008, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD004879. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD004879.pub3.
 Rivetti D, Jefferson T, Thomas RE, Rudin M, Rivetti A, Di Pietrantonj C, Demicheli V. Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2006, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD004876. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD004876.pub2.
 Jefferson T. Mistaken identity: seasonal influenza versus influenza-like illness. Clinical Evidence. 2009. http://clinicalevidence.bmj.com/ceweb/resources/editors-letter-full.jsp?src=editorsletter_intro#REF3
Other useful reference: Jefferson T. The prevention of seasonal influenza — policy versus evidence. BMJ 2006;333:912–915.
Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of www.homeopathic.com. He is the author of 10 books, including his bestseller, Everybody's Guide to Homeopathic Medicines. His most recent book is, The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Dana lives, practices, and writes from Berkeley, California.