I heard a doc talking head on the TV yesterday saying that, good news, there will be enough flu vaccine for all this year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here in my home town of Atlanta, GA, seem to think that everyone under the age of 6 and over the age of 50, in addition to other groups of people with specific medical conditions, should get the vaccine. In fact, government agencies world-wide seem to be hyper-eager to get everyone to get those flu shots.
But, personally, before I do anything like submit myself to having a needle jammed in my arm that I have to pay for, I always ask myself, is there any evidence that this is going to actually help ME? In the case of the flu shot the answer is... probably not. Sure it will help the manufacturer of the flu shot make their sales projections.
And why the CDC has gotten itself into the sorry ass position of recommending vaccines for people in whom the evidence does not exist to support a real benefit is beyond me. In fact the data that flu vaccines save lives in these age groups is just not that great (translation: doesn't exist). The problem is that there are many strains of flu and the vaccine targets only one, and you need the shots every year cuz the viruses keep changing. I have reviewed the literature and the ONLY group for which there is ANY evidence that flu shots might save lives is with people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which is caused by smoking. So if you want to avoid dying from the flu, stop smoking.
The experts in the literature are actually saying not to use flu vaccines, although no one seems to listen to them. Quoting epidemiologist Tom Jefferson below: from an article in BMJ "The optimistic and confident tone of some predictions of viral circulation and of the impact of inactivated vaccines, which are at odds with the evidence, is striking. The reasons are probably complex and may involve a 'messy blend of truth conflicts and conflicts of interest making it difficult to separate factual disputes from value disputes' or a manifestation of optimism bias (an unwarranted belief in the efficacy of interventions)."
Translation: Politicians that fell asleep in science class in high school are getting a lot of money from vaccine manufacturers. Through a combination of greasing the wheels and the fact that they are too stupid to know better, they actually think that they are helping us out by using government resources to try and 'educate' us that we need to get a flu shot that actually will do nothing for us.
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