I’m Still Not Getting Flu Shots

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Oops! I forgot, my employer, Emory University, actually requires me to get a flu shot. So I guess that’s not really true.

In 2008 I was asked to give a talk at Emory Hospital on “Why I’m Not Getting a Flu Shot this Year” which was based on a chapter in my book that had recently come out through Penguin Before You Take that Pill: Why the Drug Industry May Be Bad For Your Health.

Before You Take That Pill

The night before the talk the head of Infectious Diseases (ID) at Emory called me at home at night and said something along the lines of, are you crazy or something? I offered to give half of my time to the speaker of his choice. The next day I stood in front of a tense but expectant group of Emory Healthcare employees interested to learn more background about the fact that they were being force vaccinated. Revolution was in the air, and the ID Attendings standing in the back of the room in their white coats with folded arms added an air of menace and intimidation.

After I gave my talk, an ID guy gave what I thought was a lame-o argument that flu had decreased in Japan after they starter giving flu shots, and that mortality in nursing home residents decreased when healthcare providers were vaccinated. Well, duh! Why don’t we just vaccinate people working in nursing homes? Furthermore, they confidently announced that they had bought 50,000 vials of Tamiflu and were ready for the coming disastrous epidemic next winter. Well, duh, if the bird flu becomes infectious to humans, it will have mutated and Tamiflu won’t work any more! I wonder what they did with all that (now expired) Tamiflu? Maybe they can use it to decorate their gardens. And how much did all that cost, for Pete’s sake?

That year I filled out a form saying that I objected to getting a flu shot for religious religions. I said I was a “Christian Scientist.” I mean, after all, I was a Christian, and I am a Scientist. So, Christian… Scientist! It’s not my fault if they confused it with the group that denies medical care for faith-based reasons.

After a couple of years that required a letter from my Pastor about my religious objection. I didn’t want to join the Christian Scientist Church, or look for another job, so I submitted to taking their vaccine. Fascists!

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.

And in that effort that have the alliance of the CDC. After suppressing data suggesting a link between the MMR vaccine and autism, Dr Julie Geberding left her position as Director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) here in Atlanta, Georgia, for a job as head of the vaccines division at Merck. She probably got paid a lot more!

[parts of this post were originally posted on beforeyoutakethatpill.com on November 6, 2007.]

Doug Bremner MD is author of The Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.