Should I get a flu shot? Pros, cons, and facts you should know.

Should I get a flu shot? Based on the advertising every fall, it would seem that you should. But is the focus on flu shots supported by facts?

The majority of people I know don’t get the flu shot. But across the population, avoiding the flu shot could be more the exception than the rule.

If you’re for or against the flu shot or stuck on the fence, this blog post will give you some crucial points to consider. 

Adults ought to make their own informed decisions about their health and the health of their families. That’s especially the case today, now that the COVID-19 pandemic is part of the discussion.

Unfortunately, most people are not informed.

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Influenza-Like Illness

The flu begins as a respiratory infection. More than 200 viruses can cause Influenza-Like Illness (ILI). The influenza virus can cause ILI, but so can many other viruses.

Per the CDC, flu symptoms include:

Flu Symptoms
Congestion or runny noseCough
DiarrheaFatigue and weakness
Fever or chillsHeadache
Muscle or body achesNausea or vomiting
Sore throat

How does that compare to COVID-19 symptoms? Again, from the CDC, COVID-19 symptoms include:

COVID-19 Symptoms
Congestion or runny noseCough
DiarrheaFatigue or weakness
Fever or chillsHeadache
Muscle or body achesNausea or vomiting
New loss of taste or smell

They look pretty similar, don’t they? With so many people exposed to the COVID-19 virus today, many doctors will undoubtedly diagnose patients with COVID-19 instead of the flu, even though they would have had the flu even if they weren’t carrying the COVID-19 virus.

Like COVID-19, certain people are at greater risk for severe flu cases, including those who:

  • Are elderly and immunocompromised
  • Are obese
  • Have diabetes
  • Have heart disease
  • Have asthma

If you’re over the age of 40, when you were a kid and got the flu, you probably stayed home from school for a day or two, watched boring daytime TV, and drank Sprite while lying on the couch, under a blanket.

You knew that getting sick once in a while was just part of living. You didn’t live in fear of the flu.

Today, marketing and political and financial interests have created a massive fear about a common illness.

And with COVID-19 in the picture, the promotion of panic is at a whole other level.

How Does the Flu Vaccine Work?

You might think the flu shot gives you some superpower to combat the flu. That’s not how it works.

The flu shot doesn’t guarantee you’ll avoid the flu. It reduces the likelihood you’ll get it, only if you get infected by the same strain the vaccine contains.

When someone says, “I’ve gotten the flu shot for ten years in a row, and I haven’t gotten the flu one time,” their avoidance of the flu and getting the flu shot could be pure coincidence.

“When someone says, “I’ve never gotten the flu shot, and I never get the flu,” that could also be a coincidence.

When someone says, “I got the flu shot, and the next day I felt like I had the flu,” that could most definitely be the result of the flu shot.

Influenza viruses cause influenza-like illness in only 7-15% of cases. Other viruses that cause influenza-like illness include:

  • respiratory syncytial virus, which causes a respiratory infection
  • rhinovirus, which causes the common cold
  • adenovirus, which causes bronchitis and other illnesses
  • parainfluenza viruses, which also cause the common cold
  • human coronaviruses, which cause SARS and COVID-19
  • human metapneumovirus, which also causes respiratory infections

Without getting tested for the flu, it’s impossible to know whether someone has “the flu,” or an infection that leads to symptoms like the flu. The flu vaccine does not prevent infection from any of these other viruses.

Influenza A, B, and C and the Vaccine

The viruses that cause the majority of ILI come from one of two groups, Influenza A and Influenza B. There’s also Influenza C. Many different strains of viruses make up each group.

The flu viruses continuously change based on antigenic drift or antigenic shift. 

At the beginning of each year, researchers and scientists try to guess which of the top two Influenza A and Influenza B viruses will cause most influenza virus-based flu cases the next flu season.

Once they agree on the “guess,” pharmaceutical companies go to work, manufacturing vaccines. The vaccines contain three or four of those strains most likely to strike in the next flu season.

Pharmaceutical companies produce four types of influenza vaccines worldwide. Taken from The Cochrane Library report, they are:

  1. Whole‐virion inactivated vaccines. These consist of complete viruses that have been ‘killed’ or inactivated. They should not cause infection, but they do retain their strain‐specific antigenic properties.
  2. Subunit inactivated vaccines. These contain influenza surface antigens (H and N) only.
  3. Split‐virion inactivated vaccines in which a disrupting agent breaks up the viral structure. These vaccines contain both surface and internal antigens.
  4. Live attenuated, cold‐adapted vaccines in which the live virus in the vaccine can only multiply in the cooler nasal passages. This vaccine is administered intranasally.

That’s as technical as I want to get. I only included the list because you might notice the above terms when a healthcare practitioner pushes the vaccine on you.

Once the vaccine enters your body, it causes a mild infection.

Though it’s not as severe as a full-blown flu infection, it’s an infection nonetheless. If you choose not to get the vaccine, you could easily make it through the flu season without any illness at all.

To be clear, the flu shot can cause flu-like symptoms. The symptoms might be less severe and not last as long, but you can feel like you got the flu from the flu shot.

The infection produces antibodies, which act like cellular soldiers, trained to attack the specific virus you just infected yourself with.

If you get infected by the same virus in the weeks following your flu shot, as the virus that was in your vaccine, you’ll be less likely to get a severe case of the flu.

However, your antibodies only protect you from the exact strain you were exposed to. If you get infected by a close cousin of the virus, you will not be protected.

The vaccine-caused infection does compromise your immune system. As a result, you’ll be more susceptible to sickness from other viruses and bacteria following your flu shot.

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Flu Vaccine Effectiveness and Efficacy

The flu shot’s advertising campaigns would have you believe the flu shot is a proven way to avoid the flu. It isn’t.

The statistics used to support the flu shot make things sound better than they are. 

To simplify the numbers and separate hype from reality, I’ve included some statistics based on data from papers published by The Cochrane Library.

To help those numbers make more sense, I first need to explain four terms.

  1. Efficacy: Vaccine efficacy refers to how well a vaccine works in a controlled environment. For the flu vaccine, efficacy measures how well the vaccine prevents measurable influenza virus in the blood in the weeks and months following vaccination.
  2. Effectiveness: The measure of effectiveness is how well the vaccine prevents Influenza-Like Illness, or what most people think of as “the flu.”
  3. Risk reduction: In the tables below, I’ve included columns listing the “risk reduction.” This is a significant number to understand. When the CDC or a newsperson says the flu vaccine is “60% effective,” most people assume that means it eliminates the flu for 60% of people exposed to it. That isn’t the case. It means that it reduces the risk of getting the flu by 60%. As you’ll see, the risk of getting the flu is relatively low even without the flu shot.
  4. Magic Number: What I’ve listed as the “Magic #” is technically called the “Number Needed to Vaccinate.” It’s the number of people who, based on the data, need to get vaccinated for one person to not get the flu.

I’ll come back to this later.

Risk Reduction of the Flu Vaccine

The following is a collection of data from reviews by The Cochrane Library. They published the reviews in 2018.

Children

EfficacyTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Live, attenuated4%18%78%7
Inactivated11%30%63%5
EffectivenessTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Live, attenuated12%17%29%20
Inactivated20%28%28%12

Obviously, kids are the most likely to get the flu, which is why the CDC, pharmacies, healthcare providers, and schools encourage all the children to get the flu shot.

The problem is, we have zero evidence of the safety or risks associated with getting the flu shot over a lifetime. It’ll take another 50-80 years since it’s only been the past couple of decades that parents have allowed kids to get the flu shot.

Giving kids the flu shot enters them into an experiment for which we have not idea about the risks, and the benefits are minor if there are any at all.

Maybe we’ll find that getting injected with the flu each year over a lifetime does not affect people. Then again, we might find it has dire consequences.

By the way, during the 2008-2009 flu season in Japan, researchers tested the effects of just 1200 IU of vitamin D per day on children to see what kind of impact it had on reducing the flu occurrence.

At the end of the study, 18.6% of the kids who took a placebo got the flu. Only 10.8% of the kids who took the vitamin D got the flu. That’s a 42% percent risk reduction with a lower-than-optimal dose of vitamin D.

That should make major headlines, but vitamin D is cheap, and pharmaceutical companies cannot patent it.

Healthy Adults

EfficacyTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Live Attenuated1%2.3%59%71
Inactivated59%77
Live aerosol53%39
EffectivenessTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Live Attenuated18%21.5%16%29
Inactivated20%28%28%12
Live Aerosol10%46

Older Adults

EfficacyTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Inactivated2.4%6%60%30
Vaccine Effectiveness
Inactivated3.5%6%42%42
EffectivenessTreatmentControlRisk ReductionMagic #
Inactivated3.5%6%42%42

The numbers for healthy adults are not impressive. The numbers are impressive for older adults, but they aren’t very likely to get the flu to begin with. 

The effectiveness of the flu vaccine might not be as significant as the numbers suggest, either.

First, there’s much debate about the bias behind the vaccine research. If the research goal is to justify the flu vaccine, that bias can affect almost every part of the study.

Second, vaccine research may contain a “healthy user effect.”

It’s believed that a significant percentage of people who get the flu shot are already above average when it comes to being proactive about their health. This makes them less likely to get the flu, with or without the flu shot.

As a result, they make the flu shot groups’ numbers more impressive, but their avoidance of the flu and the flu shot is a coincidence; it’s not cause and effect.

Most health-conscious people don’t avoid the flu shot like me. They follow conventional advice without questioning it, just as they wear a mask without asking what side effects the mask could cause.

Where is the Safety Data?

There are far more questions than answers when it comes to the long-term effects of the flu vaccine.

The only thing we can be sure of is that the flu vaccine can cause mild flu-like symptoms, such as a slight fever, fatigue, and aches. But nobody knows what impact the vaccines can have long-term.

Unfortunately, flu vaccine promoters often dismiss reactions to the flu virus. It’s like when someone breaks out in hives or develops a rash after trying a new supplement or essential oils, and the friend that sold it to them say, “Don’t worry, it’s just a detox reaction. Keep using it.”

In the United States, the government, healthcare organizations, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, and even social media and web companies have gone all-in on the flu shot.

As the Center for Disease Control (CDC) explicitly states:

The best way to prevent flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

CDC Website

That’s the same thinking that has people wearing masks without giving any thought to losing weight, getting enough sleep, eating a high-protein diet, and doing other things to strengthen their immune systems.

And once a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, there’s no doubt that certain healthcare policymakers will say, “The best way to prevent COVID-19 is to get the vaccine.”

Our bodies can beat viruses. We just need to take responsibility for our health.

The British National Health Service seems to use a little more common sense than we do in America. As they stated:

Flu is an unpredictable virus that can be unpleasant, but if you’re otherwise healthy it’ll usually clear up on its own within a week. It can cause severe illness and even death among vulnerable groups, including older people, pregnant women and people with an underlying health condition.

Certain people are more likely to develop potentially serious complications of flu, such as bronchitis and pneumonia. These people are advised to have a flu vaccine each year.

Flu can be very unpleasant for otherwise healthy people, but most people will recover from flu within a week or 2.

NHS Website

Adverse Events

Adverse events from the flu vaccine are real.

As of June 30, 2020, more than 178,684 reports of influenza vaccine reactions, hospitalizations, injuries, and deaths following influenza vaccinations were made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS), including 1,790 related deaths, 14,197 hospitalizations, and 3,671 related disabilities.

However, the number of vaccine-related injuries and deaths reported to VAERS may not reflect the true number of serious health problems after influenza vaccination.

National Vaccine Information Center, Retrieved Oct 3 2019

Traditional medicine doctors rarely hurt patients with natural remedies they’ve used for thousands of years. However, modern medicine tactics, especially as it relates to vaccines, have no such track record. Also, vaccine makers are almost free of any sort of liability for damage the vaccines could cause.

When we start injecting viruses and the other ingredients found in vaccines into our bodies year-after-year without any long-term safety data, we gamble with our futures. Even worse, we’re gambling with our kids’ futures.

Glimpses of Other Health Concerns

In the instances when research finds evidence of health risks, pro-vaccine “experts” often discredit it.

For example…A large cohort study found that women in the first trimester of pregnancy who received a flu shot were 20% more likely to give birth to children who developed autism.

Numerous researchers criticized this study’s findings based on it being an observational study. Yet, that’s the same kind of research used to show the flu shot’s efficacy and effectiveness.

It’s like politics. When one way of thinking behooves you, it’s proof. When it behooves the opposition, it’s preposterous.

In another example, children who got the Pandemrix® vaccine in 2009 (which wasn’t available in the US) were 5 to 14 times, and adults 2 to 7 times more likely to develop narcolepsy.

Older adults should be especially wary of flu vaccines that contain MF59, and adjuvant that contains squalene. 

The vaccine manufacturer uses squalene to stimulate a greater immune response.

As the CDC website states:

FLUAD and FLUAD Quadrivalent is a standard-dose, inactivated influenza (flu) vaccine, manufactured by Seqirus that contains an adjuvant. During the 2020-2021 influenza season, both trivalent FLUAD and FLUAD Quadrivalent will be available. Both of these vaccines are approved for people 65 years and older. They are manufactured using an egg-based process (like most flu vaccines), and are formulated with an adjuvant called MF59. An adjuvant is an ingredient added to a vaccine that helps create a stronger immune response to vaccination.

Center for Disease Control, retrieved September 9, 2020

Squalene may aggravate pre-existing conditions such as atherosclerosis, inflammatory bowel disease, and arthritis. 

The irony is that these vaccines targeted at older people are the people most likely to have these pre-existing conditions.

Negative Vaccine Effectiveness

Let’s say you’re one of 77 adults who gets a live attenuated flu vaccine. You luck out and don’t get the flu. However, because you did get the vaccine, you compromised your immune system and got sick with something else.

That’s negative vaccine effectiveness. You might get the benefit of the vaccine, but at a cost in your health in some other way.

Unfortunately, negative vaccine effectiveness only gets brought up from those questioning the safety of the vaccine. Those who believe in the flu vaccine often shoot down the issue, believing it’s irrelevant.

As Dr. Margaret McCartney said, in a statement published in the British Medical Journal,

I would have the vaccination if a high quality trial showed that it was worth it for me or my patients. But flu vaccination is offered millions of times every year at a huge opportunity cost; given so much uncertainty, this policy is impossible to justify.

McCartney, BMJ 2014

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, a human rights and democracy group called into question the motives for mass vaccination. In a motion entitled Faked Pandemics – a Threat for Health, they said:

In order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against the flu, pharmaceutical companies have influenced scientists and official agencies responsible for public health standards, to alarm governments worldwide. They have made them squander tight health care resources for inefficient vaccine strategies and needlessly exposed millions of healthy people to the risk of unknown side-effects and insufficiently tested vaccines.

Faked Pandemics – a threat for health. Wodarg et al.

What Will the Cost Be For Today’s Kids?

I read and reread this statement in the published paper Influenza Vaccination Strategies Should Target Children:

Models suggest that vaccinating 20 percent of school-aged children can decrease adult mortality more than vaccinating 90 percent of those aged over 65 years. With vaccination coverage of 40 percent, serious morbidity and mortality could be reduced by 70 percent in the elderly.

Bambery et al.

To summarize, “we should stick our kids each year with a vaccine of unknown long-term side effects, so that we can theoretically save the lives of older adults according to a mathematical model.”

That seems like the opening to an apocalyptic movie more than common sense science. Oh, and the paper I mentioned comes from the journal Public Health Ethics.

And if this sounds eerily similar to COVID-19, it is. Schools are forcing kids to wear masks, even though they have little to no risk of COVID-19. The belief is that it will protect older adults. Yet we don’t understand the collateral damage to the kids wearing the masks all the time.

None of this sounds like we’re a country that values our children above all else.

Read also: Unmasked. Unmuzzled. Unvaccinated. Unafraid.

What about natural health alternatives?

What about vitamin D, vitamin C, essential oils, elderberry syrup, and other natural remedies?

Here’s my point of view. Supplements, botanicals, essential oils, sufficient sleepgood nutrition, and exercise all support your immune system.

All of those choices help to reduce your risk of the flu. None of them prevent the flu.

Someone who gets the flu shot and doesn’t get the flu cannot conclude the flu shot prevented the flu. In the same way, someone who uses natural health products and has avoided the flu shouldn’t conclude the natural health products prevented the flu.

Do healthy choices make it less likely you’ll get sick? 

Absolutely. But please don’t assume your “study of one” is the answer to getting or avoiding the flu. The flu is, and may always be, a natural part of life.

Would you get the flu shot?

I’ve never gotten the flu shot. I realize some people will call me crazy and careless, just as they’d call me deplorable for voting for Donald Trump (again).

That’s okay. I don’t make decisions without careful consideration. Ask my wife. It took me three hours at the Mall of America to buy a pair of sunglasses.

Skipping out on the flu shot isn’t an act of rebellion. It’s a decision I’ve made after weighing existing and missing evidence. Right now, I believe there’s more potential risk in getting the shot than the risk in avoiding it.

If you’re reading this and you truly believe the vaccine is effective, you won’t care that I don’t get it because your vaccine should protect you.

As for me, let me wrap this up by saying…

Until there is clear, unbiased, long-term proof of the flu shot’s safety, I would prefer to lick the floor at a childcare facility, rather than get a flu shot.

References