One essential issue regarding the flu shot is whether it is effective or not. This topic has been briefly addressed under the title of ‘Sizzling Studies’ in this newsletter. Now, if we were to argue that it is in fact preventative, (which the evidence does not suggest in my opinion), then we still need to make an informed choice based on our risks of getting influenza, as well as an understanding of where the flu shot comes from and what it contains.

What are the risks? The flu shot is made in theory to protect us against the influenza virus, especially its most virulent form, influenza A (as was the infamous swine flu). According to information on the website of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over the last 11 years of total specimens tested (how many sick people had influenza) < 14% of illness in the general population was due to the influenza virus. This means for those contracting flu-like illness, it may keep you from getting sick 14% of the time.

How many people die from the flu? Where did the estimate of “36,000 deaths per year” the media often reports come from? This number came from a 2003 study published in JAMA that used a statistical model to estimate the number of deaths over 9 flu seasons, from 1990 through to 1999. In reality, the CDC states it “doesn’t know” exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year and has a long list of reasons it doesn’t know the answer.(1) The American Lung Association, based on detailed records of flu cases from 1999-2006, estimated an average of 1,244 deaths per year. Granted, we would expect these numbers to be greater during a pandemic, these numbers are significantly lower.

So how is the flu vaccine made? There are hundreds of strains and sub-strains of influenza viruses. The World Health Organization (WHO) chooses a new strain based on those most prevalent in South East Asia the year prior. The CDC says it is an educated guess at best. This ‘seed virus’ is then mixed with a laboratory strain of influenza virus that is known to grow well in eggs. Essentially, this mix means the creation of an entirely new virus. This hybrid virus in then replicated in a fertilized chicken embryo for 11 days. The end product is sent to 8 manufacturers worldwide and a variation of the flu shot is made containing many of the following additional ingredients:

  • Avian proteins/DNA
  • Avian (stealth) virus
  • Antibiotics
  • Chemicals and buffers
    • Beta-propriolactone
    • Formaldehyde
  • Detergents: Triton-X-100
  • Hydrocortisone
  • <Sucrose/li>
  • Synthetic vitamin E
  • Thimerosal (mercury)
  • Gelatin
  • Polysorbate 80
  • Latex (bottle top)
  • MSG
  • Adjuvants

I will highlight just a few concerns regarding some of these ingredients. Mercury tops the list simply because it is the most toxic non-radioactive metal on this earth. Formaldehyde can cause proteins to irreversibly bind to DNA in the body and is carcinogenic to humans. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) says formaldehyde is immediately dangerous to life at 20 ppm; yet, you will get a dose of 50-200 ppm depending on the flu shot you receive. (2) Anaphylaxis to measles-mumps-rubella vaccines has been linked to children with an allergy to gelatin, an ingredient also in the flu shot. (3) Adjuvants are capable of accelerating the activation of the immune system. Once an abnormal response is “turned on,” there is no switch to “turn it off.” After more than 75 years of use, researchers admit that the mechanism of action for most adjuvants is still “incompletely understood.”(4) A Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Triton-X-100 states the following: “Harmful if swallowed. Toxicology not fully investigated. The product may contain traces of ethylene oxide or dioxane, which are probably human carcinogens.”(5) Polysorbate 80 causes infertility in female mice and testicular atrophy in male mice. (6) Some flu vaccines contain MSG or may be contaminated with latex, which can be very problematic for those with sensitivities or severe allergies. How many healthcare consumers know from which manufacturer your flu vaccine is sourced from? When was the last time you were asked, before receiving the flu shot, about allergies to eggs, latex, MSG, or the like?

For me there was never a question about the flu vaccine, simply because I believe that most risk factors for illness and death come from our own lifestyle habits. By addressing things such as vitamin and mineral deficiencies, chronic stress, insomnia and poor diet, we can provide ourselves with the best protection against viruses, bacteria and the like. In addition, there are many wonderful herbal and homeopathic remedies to build up resistance and fight infection, including a natural ‘flu shot’ from Germany I use with many of my patients.

Regardless of my opinion, I only asked that you make an informed one.

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