Influenza Vaccine: Expert Says So-Called Flu Shot Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be


Home / Influenza Vaccine: Expert Says So-Called Flu Shot Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up To Be

CDC says you should get your flu shot, but should you? Photo by the CDC

Getting your influenza vaccine, also known as the ‘flu shot’ is a common practice during the fall when the influenza season begins. You can get your flu shot at doctor’s offices, pharmacies, grocery stores, and even drive-through flu shot clinics.

In 1990 there were 32 million flu shots available –  and today there are 135 million doses… that’s a good thing, right? Maybe not. One doctor is standing out from all the medical and public health experts, and speaking against the conventional wisdom.

Instead of saying, “get your flu shot,” he is questioning this common practice. In his paper entitled, Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease, published in the British Medical Journal on May 16, 2013, Dr. Doshi explains and backs up his statements with evidence explaining why we should question our need for the influenza vaccine.

Flu Shot Questions: Speaking Out

Peter Doshi, Postdoctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine is ‘odd man out’ in the medical and public health field. When so many of his fellow colleagues are urging the flu shot, he is arguing against it.

Dr. Doshi begins his research paper with a bold statement, “This enormous [flu shot] growth has not been fueled by popular demand but instead by a public health campaign that delivers a straightforward, who-in-their-right-mind-could-possibly-disagree message: influenza is a serious disease, we are all at risk for complications from influenza, the flu shot is virtually risk free, and vaccination saves lives.” 

In his paper he explains how the manufacturing of the flu shot has paralleled the perception of needing the vaccine. In the 1990’s the goal of the flu shot was to reduce mortality which occurred mostly in the elderly, so experts began targeting this group to get their flu shot – but since the year 2000, the  idea of who is at risk has grown to include everyone as the CDC guidelines recommend that everyone six months and older get the flu shot, and pregnant women get vaccinated to protect their unborn children.

Flu Shot Safety: Is the Influenza Vaccine Safe?

According to Dr. Doshi’s study, the CDC uses two studies to back up the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine. The first study was conducted in 1995, and was published in the Annals of Internal Medicine – it found that the vaccine reduces the risks for pneumonia, hospitalization, and death during an influenza epidemic if the vaccine strain is identical or similar to the epidemic strains. The study calculated a reduction of 27 to 30 percent for preventing deaths from all causes. Dr. Doshi points out that this is a reduction of deaths from all causes not just from influenza. In other words – the study concluded that getting the flu vaccine saved you from death by car accident, assault, or lightning strike, as well as influenza.

The second study that the CDC used was published in the New England Journal of Medicine and funded by the National Vaccine Program Office and the CDC. This study found an even larger reduction in the risk of deaths – 48 percent! Dr. Doshi states in his study, “If true, these statistics indicate that influenza vaccines can save more lives than any other single licensed medicine on the planet. Perhaps these is a reason CDC does not shout this from the rooftop: it’s too good to be true. Since at least 2005, non-CDC researchers have pointed out the seeming impossibility that influenza vaccines could be preventing 50 percent of all deaths from all causes when influenza is estimated to only cause around five percent of all wintertime deaths.” 

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