- 1 Important papers and information to consider when making flu vaccination decisions
- 1.0.1 Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children
- 1.0.2 Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults
- 1.0.3 Vaccines for preventing seasonal influenza and its complications in people aged 65 or older
- 1.0.4 Influenza Vaccine Causes Illness and Immune Dysfunction
- 1.0.5 Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine Enhances Colonization of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus in Mice
- 1.0.6 Live Attenuated Influenza Virus Increases Pneumococcal Translocation and Persistence Within the Middle Ear
- 1.0.7 Impact of repeated vaccination on vaccine effectiveness against influenza A(H3N2) and B during 8 seasons.
- 1.0.8 Repeated seasonal influenza vaccination among elderly in Europe: Effects on laboratory confirmed hospitalised influenza.
- 1.0.9 Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers: Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Benefit Underpinning Policies of Enforcement.
- 1.0.10 Increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infections associated with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine.
- 1.0.11 Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld’s syndrome) – An update
- 1.0.12 Reports detail risk of seizures in kids after flu vaccination
- 1.0.13 The long-term effects of febrile seizures on the hippocampal neuronal plasticity – clinical and experimental evidence.
- 1.0.14 FEBRILE SEIZURES by Ruth C. Shinnar, RN, MSN & Shlomo Shinnar, MD, PhD
- 1.1 FDA: Vaccines For Use in Pregnancy to Protect Young Infants from Disease
- 1.2 Influenza Vaccine Causes Illness and Immune Dysfunction
- 2 Alternatives to influenza vaccination
- 2.0.1 The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections.
- 2.0.2 Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold
- 2.0.3 Vitamin A, infection, and immune function
- 2.0.4 Chinese medicinal herbs for influenza
- 2.0.5 Homeopathic Oscillococcinum® for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like illness
- 2.1 Avoid suppressing the immune system
- 3 Eat well, beat the flu
Important papers and information to consider when making flu vaccination decisions
Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy children
“Influenza vaccines are efficacious in preventing cases of influenza in children older than two years of age, but little evidence is available for children younger than two years of age. There was a difference between vaccine efficacy and effectiveness, partly due to differing datasets, settings and viral circulation patterns. No safety comparisons could be carried out, emphasising the need for standardisation of methods and presentation of vaccine safety data in future studies. In specific cases, influenza vaccines were associated with serious harms such as narcolepsy and febrile convulsions. It was surprising to find only one study of inactivated vaccine in children under two years, given current recommendations to vaccinate healthy children from six months of age in the USA, Canada, parts of Europe and Australia. If immunisation in children is to be recommended as a public health policy, large-scale studies assessing important outcomes, and directly comparing vaccine types are urgently required. The degree of scrutiny needed to identify all global cases of potential harms is beyond the resources of this review.”
Vaccines to prevent influenza in healthy adults
“The real impact of biases could not be determined for about 70% of the included studies (e.g. insufficient reporting details, very different scores among the items evaluated). About 20% of the included studies (mainly cohorts) had a high risk of bias. Just under 10% had good methodological quality.
Influenza vaccines have a very modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost in the general population, including pregnant women. No evidence of association between influenza vaccination and serious adverse events was found in the comparative studies considered in the review. This review includes 90 studies, 24 of which (26.7%) were funded totally or partially by industry. Out of the 48 RCTs, 17 were industry-funded (35.4%).”
Vaccines for preventing seasonal influenza and its complications in people aged 65 or older
The available evidence is of poor quality and provides no guidance regarding the safety, efficacy or effectiveness of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older. To resolve the uncertainty, an adequately powered publicly-funded randomised, placebo–controlled trial run over several seasons should be undertaken.
Influenza Vaccine Causes Illness and Immune Dysfunction
“Conclusion: Immune suppression from the influenza vaccine has been observed in human studies, and is supported by findings of reduced CD8+ T cells in vaccinated humans. And these effects have been confirmed in multiple animal studies, using two different types of animals. It is clear that immune suppression from the influenza vaccine is a real effect.”
Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine Enhances Colonization of Streptococcus pneumoniae and Staphylococcus aureus in Mice
“While care should be taken to not overgeneralize the data described here to all vaccines, the broad implications suggest that live attenuated viral vaccines may have unintended consequences on important human bacterial pathogens unrelated to the vaccine target species. Furthermore, our findings suggest a role for laboratory models of multispecies interactions with vaccine strains to inform future vaccine monitoring and evaluation programs aimed at identifying thus far entirely unrealized “unconventional” effects, both beneficial and detrimental, of live attenuated viral vaccines and cross-species microbial dynamics.”
Live Attenuated Influenza Virus Increases Pneumococcal Translocation and Persistence Within the Middle Ear
Conclusions. While LAIV vaccination is safe and effective at reducing IAV and coinfection with influenza virus and bacteria, LAIV may increase bacterial transmigration to the middle ear and could thus increase the risk of clinically relevant acute otitis media. These data warrant further investigations into interactions between live attenuated viruses and naturally colonizing bacterial pathogens.
Impact of repeated vaccination on vaccine effectiveness against influenza A(H3N2) and B during 8 seasons.
“CONCLUSIONS: Current- and previous-season vaccination generated similar levels of protection, and vaccine-induced protection was greatest for individuals not vaccinated during the prior 5 years. Additional studies are needed to understand the long-term effects of annual vaccination.”
Repeated seasonal influenza vaccination among elderly in Europe: Effects on laboratory confirmed hospitalised influenza.
“Our results suggest that, regardless of patients’ recent vaccination history, current seasonal vaccine conferred some protection to vaccinated patients against hospitalisation with influenza A(H3N2) and B. Vaccination of patients already vaccinated in both the past two seasons did not seem to be effective against A(H1N1)pdm09. To better understand the effect of repeated vaccination, engaging in large cohort studies documenting exposures to vaccine and natural infection is needed.”
Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers: Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Benefit Underpinning Policies of Enforcement.
“CONCLUSIONS: The four cRCTs underpinning policies of enforced HCW influenza vaccination attribute implausibly large reductions in patient risk to HCW vaccination, casting serious doubts on their validity. The impression that unvaccinated HCWs place their patients at great influenza peril is exaggerated. Instead, the HCW-attributable risk and vaccine-preventable fraction both remain unknown and the NNV to achieve patient benefit still requires better understanding. Although current scientific data are inadequate to support the ethical implementation of enforced HCW influenza vaccination, they do not refute approaches to support voluntary vaccination or other more broadly protective practices, such as staying home or masking when acutely ill.
Increased risk of noninfluenza respiratory virus infections associated with receipt of inactivated influenza vaccine.
“Abstract: We randomized 115 children to trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine (TIV) or placebo. Over the following 9 months, TIV recipients had an increased risk of virologically-confirmed non-influenza infections (relative risk: 4.40; 95% confidence interval: 1.31-14.8). Being protected against influenza, TIV recipients may lack temporary non-specific immunity that protected against other respiratory viruses.”
Autoimmune/inflammatory syndrome induced by adjuvants (Shoenfeld’s syndrome) – An update
“In this review, we have summarized the updated literature on ASIA syndrome and the knowledge accumulated since 2013 in order to elucidate the association between the exposure to various adjuvant agents and its possible clinical manifestations.”
Reports detail risk of seizures in kids after flu vaccination
“The findings have not prompted any change in the federal recommendations for flu and pneumococcal vaccination in young children, but federal officials called for warnings to healthcare providers and parents, according to the discussion article. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommended the warnings after a subcommittee studied the data.”
The long-term effects of febrile seizures on the hippocampal neuronal plasticity – clinical and experimental evidence.
“Therefore, there is a small group of children in whom febrile seizures-induced hippocampal injury might occur. Identification of the target population for subsequent mesial temporal sclerosis is important for prevention and early intervention.”
FEBRILE SEIZURES by Ruth C. Shinnar, RN, MSN & Shlomo Shinnar, MD, PhD
“The one exception to the favorable prognosis is very prolonged febrile seizures lasting more than 30 minutes. These are also known as febrile status epilepticus. These very prolonged febrile seizures which occur in 5-9 % of children with febrile seizures can be associated with injury to the brain structure called the hippocampus and result in subsequent epilepsy. Approximately 30-40% of children with febrile status epilepticus will later develop epilepsy.”
The CDC recommends TdaP and Flu vaccination during pregnancy based on perceived safety, not actual studies showing safety for the fetus either in the short term or for long term health outcomes. The FDA has not licensed any vaccine for use during pregnancy for protection of the fetus. All data currently gathered comes not from clinical trials but from the use of these vaccines in pregnant women in the general population. Pregnant women are not being told. Namely, pregnant women are not told that they are in essence taking part in clinical trials. They are shoddily run clinical trials since reporting pregnancy outcomes following vaccination is not required. The true impact of vaccination during pregnancy is not known. Tdap vaccine, for instance, contains 250 mcg of aluminum, a known neurotoxin, which can cross the placental barrier.
FDA: Vaccines For Use in Pregnancy to Protect Young Infants from Disease
- Several licensed vaccines may be used during pregnancy to prevent disease in the mother, unless specifically contraindicated: Tdap •Influenza
- Vaccines recommended for pregnant women were first licensed and approved for use based on safety and effectiveness data in non-pregnant women.
- These vaccines were then recommended by public health policy makers for pregnant women based on their perceived benefit and minimal risk for the mother and infant.
- Currently, no vaccine is approved specifically for use during pregnancy to protect the infant.
- What is needed to approve a vaccine for use in pregnancy to protect the infant? Demonstration that the vaccine is: safe, effective, shows protection in infants, and a clinical development program specifically designed for pregnant women and the infant
NOTE: The title and conclusion of the below paper does not match the data, and the data analysis performed has been the subject of much criticism. After initially finding an association in all three trimesters, adjustments (criticized as inappropriate) to the data were made, yet the association in the first trimester did not go away. The authors ultimately dismissed the result as likely due to chance.
Alternatives to influenza vaccination
Natural compound coupled with specific gut microbes may prevent severe flu
“Now, a new study shows that a particular gut microbe can prevent severe flu infections in mice, likely by breaking down naturally occurring compounds — called flavonoids — commonly found in foods such as black tea, red wine and blueberries.”
The effectiveness of vitamin C in preventing and relieving the symptoms of virus-induced respiratory infections.
“RESULTS: Overall, reported flu and cold symptoms in the test group decreased 85% compared with the control group after the administration of megadose Vitamin C.
CONCLUSION: Vitamin C in megadoses administered before or after the appearance of cold and flu symptoms relieved and prevented the symptoms in the test population compared with the control group.”
Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold
“Regular supplementation trials have shown that vitamin C reduces the duration of colds, but this was not replicated in the few therapeutic trials that have been carried out. Nevertheless, given the consistent effect of vitamin C on the duration and severity of colds in the regular supplementation studies, and the low cost and safety, it may be worthwhile for common cold patients to test on an individual basis whether therapeutic vitamin C is beneficial for them. Further therapeutic RCTs are warranted.”
Vitamin A, infection, and immune function
“Vitamin A deficiency impairs innate immunity by impeding normal regeneration of mucosal barriers damaged by infection, and by diminishing the function of neutrophils, macrophages, and natural killer cells. Vitamin A is also required for adaptive immunity and plays a role in the development of T both-helper (Th) cells and B-cells. In particular, vitamin A deficiency diminishes antibody-mediated responses directed by Th2 cells, although some aspects of Th1-mediated immunity are also diminished.”
Chinese medicinal herbs for influenza
“Most Chinese medical herbs in the included studies showed similar effects to antiviral drugs in preventing or treating influenza. Few were shown to be superior to antiviral drugs. No obvious adverse events were reported in the included studies. However, current evidence remains weak due to methodological limitations of the trials. More high-quality RCTs with larger numbers of participants and clear reporting are needed.”
Homeopathic Oscillococcinum® for preventing and treating influenza and influenza-like illness
There is insufficient good evidence to enable robust conclusions to be made about Oscillococcinum® in the prevention or treatment of influenza and influenza-like illness. Our findings do not rule out the possibility that Oscillococcinum® could have a clinically useful treatment effect but, given the low quality of the eligible studies, the evidence is not compelling. There was no evidence of clinically important harms due to Oscillococcinum®.
Avoid suppressing the immune system
The effect on mortality of antipyretics in the treatment of influenza infection: systematic review and meta-analyis
“In conclusion, this systematic review and meta-analysis has shown an increased mortality rate in animals treated with antipyretics during infection with influenza A or B, with no informative randomized placebo-controlled trials in humans. We propose that randomized placebo-controlled trials of antipyretic use in pandemic and seasonal influenza in humans are urgently needed in order to establish appropriate evidence-based management guidelines.”
Randomized controlled trial of the effect of regular paracetamol on influenza infection
“Regular paracetamol had no effect on viral shedding, temperature or clinical symptoms in patients with PCR‐confirmed influenza. There remains an insufficient evidence base for paracetamol use in influenza infection.”
Eat well, beat the flu
Sometimes science presents novel approaches to healing, and sometimes the opposite happens. When it comes to flu prevention, science has been confirming the wisdom of the past while revealing the shortcomings of modern approaches.
Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” This ancient wisdom is being confirmed by science as researchers continue to discover the complexities of the interactions between the food we eat, our gut biomes, our immune systems, neurological health, and even genetic expression.
About 70 percent of the immune system is in the gut. The majority of immune and plasma cells are located there, and the health of those cells is determined by the diversity of microbiota (gut bacteria). When a flu virus is encountered, the innate immune system kicks in with an immediate response to rally the troops, and this gets the adaptive response activated. The beauty of this natural immune response is that it’s very comprehensive. A strong immune system can resist, or successfully fight and overcome, just about any strain of influenza that comes along. To resist and fight the flu, you need to feed your immune system properly.
Diet fads come and go, but some basics remain constant. Fresh, whole, unprocessed, naturally grown and raised, fermented and cultured foods, are the building blocks of healthy cells as well as the preferred foods of your beneficial gut bacteria. These foods also contain the building blocks for glutathione, an antioxidant critical to the immune system.
Most diet guidelines favor foods that alkalize the body, like whole fruits and vegetables, and limit acidifying foods, like meat, coffee, and simple sugars. Illness is often associated with acidosis, which negatively impacts immune response. For the average healthy person, consuming too many acidifying foods can lessen resistance to disease, but this can quickly be reversed by reducing or eliminating those foods. Sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) is the most alkalizing edible, which is why it’s a proven remedy for heartburn and acid indigestion when dissolved in water. While no studies have been done to show the effectiveness of treating influenza with baking soda, it’s a folk remedy that has biological plausibility, and many claim it halts or minimizes flu symptoms.
A robust gut biome is essential even if you opt for the flu vaccine. Your immune system must properly respond to the injected antigen and other vaccine components, and an impaired immune system is associated with increased risk of adverse vaccine reaction. Even in the best conditions, the flu vaccine has not proved to be highly effective. According to the CDC, efficacy rates range over the past decade between 10 and 60 percent. The 2015-16 vaccine was estimated at 47 percent.
For decades, researchers have been pondering the findings that those who get the shot each year tend to experience more cases of flu than those who only occasionally get the shot. One study showed an interval of five or more years between vaccinations was needed to maintain limited efficacy, but it’s not yet understood why this happens. One theory is that antibodies generated from the previous season’s vaccine hamper the response to the current one. With the influenza vaccine being the most reported to VAERS (Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System), individuals must weigh the potential benefits against the known risks. Of recent note, cancer immunotherapy researchers announced in the ACS Medical Chemistry Letters their discovery that thimerosal, the mercury preservative used in the multidose flu vaccine, interrupts a key gene called ERAP1, which is linked to many health issues, including autoimmune diseases. It’s not yet known how this discovery will impact vaccines. If you do opt for the shot, ask for thimerosal-free.
If the flu bug should bite, it’s universally recommended you support your immune system by following protocols that have stood the test of time: rest and hydrate. Fever kicks the immune system into high gear, raising the numbers of flu specific immune cells, so unless it gets too high (consult your doctor for safe temps), doctors advise against suppressing your fever with medication. The University of Maryland Medical Center website lists alternative fever therapies including specific herbs and homeopathy, and the “wet socks treatment.” This odd home remedy has surprising medical benefit. UMMC states, “As you sleep, your body will send blood and lymphatic fluid circulating in order to fight off the wetness on your feet. This stimulates the immune system and puts the body in a parasympathetic state that supports healing and restful sleep.”
(Note: For this 2016-17 season, CDC says the nasal spray vaccine (FluMist) should not be used because the data revealed no measureable protective benefit.)
The health information in this article is provided by the columnist as an information resource only. Please consult your health care provider before making any healthcare decisions.
Bernadette Pajer is a freelance health writer, novelist, citizen journalist, and co-President of InformedChoiceWA