WELL, WELL, WELL: FLU VACCINE
TAKE THE SHOT?
Connie Howard / email@example.com
Follow flu news and you'll soon be a little nervous, confused and probably bored. So why am I adding yet another piece? Because our major media outlets have massively underreported important findings of the Cochrane Collaboration on flu vaccines. "There is no evidence whatsoever that seasonal influenza vaccines have any effect, especially in the elderly and young children. No evidence of reduced [number of] cases, deaths, complications," the Cochrane Collaboration's Tom Jefferson recently said in an interview with Maryann Napoli of the Center for Medical Consumers.
Who is Jefferson that we should take seriously a statement as startling as this one? He is a medical doctor, an epidemiologist and the leader of an international team of researchers who have combed through a mountain of flu vaccine research.
This is highly relevant to the current swine flu vaccine frenzy—not only will Alberta be offering the regular flu shot alongside the swine flu shot, but the swine flu strain isn't nearly as novel, nor as dangerous, as we've been led to believe. An analysis published in the British Medical Journal says it is of "the same subtype as seasonal H1N1 that has been circulating since 1977."
In Australia, where the flu season is ending, there have been 186 deaths out of nearly 22 million people. That was with no vaccine available. Our thinking has again been shaped by, as Noam Chomsky in his signature matter-of-fact manner would say, a media that is primarily a public relations industry whose function isn't so much to inform as to manufacture consent.
The constant message has been that flu vaccines—swine or regular, with or without largely untested adjuvants—are necessary, safe and effective. But that message doesn't line up with the science. Flu-related mortality rates in the US have been flat over the past 20 years, despite ever-rising immunization rates. Higher vaccination rates in the elderly have actually resulted in higher mortality rates in that same group. During years where viral-vaccine mismatches have occurred, or where production or compliance was particularly low, death rates remained the same.
"Will you be lining up for your flu shot?" I asked one of Canada's own vaccine scientists, Health Canada whistleblower Dr. Shiv Chopra. "No," he said. "There's no out-of-the ordinary threat, and no evidence of either safety or efficacy."
Which lines up with what Jefferson said—trials have been small, short term, and rather than measure real outcomes against control groups, they've measured results on antibody levels. They tell us almost nothing about how safe or effective they are in the long term.
Chopra's answer also lines up with what we know about vaccine adjuvants from lab research—squalene, a previously unapproved adjuvant but present in the new GlaxoSmithKline shot we'll be receiving, causes rheumatoid arthritis, lupus and an MS-like paralysis in lab animals. It has been strongly linked to anthrax vaccines and Gulf War Syndrome.
For those who dismiss adjuvant fears as baseless, the German news magazine Der Spiegel has reported that German government officials, the military and pregnant women will be receiving an adjuvant-free vaccine; Glaxo's Pandemrix (similar to the Canadian version now approved) has been ordered for the rest of the population.
"In 1976 we experienced similar panic about impending swine flu disaster," says Chopra in his refreshingly quiet and calm manner. "Two hundred fifty million doses of vaccines were distributed." That vaccine program was halted because it was harming so many.
The gap between public health measures and the science is, once again, disturbing. As is the World Health Organization's new definition of pandemic. While a pandemic was once defined as a rapidly spreading virus resulting in widespread death, it is now defined as simply a rapidly spreading virus. The requirement of high mortality has been dropped. It's a handy change, when you consider that fast-track vaccine approvals need the justification of a pandemic.
The flu vaccine frenzy simply isn't supported by the science; that it is medical science fundamentalists who are most outraged by vaccine resistance is highly ironic. V