(As with all Medical Studies, one must not jump into conclusions until more studies are released. mj)
Thursday, 16 May 2013 06:33 PM
By Sylvia Booth Hubbard A Johns Hopkins scientist has issued a blistering report on influenza vaccines in the British Medical Journal (BMJ). Peter Doshi, Ph.D., charges that although the vaccines are being pushed on the public in unprecedented numbers, they are less effective and cause more side effects than alleged by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Further, says Doshi, the studies that underlie the CDC's policy of encouraging most people to get a yearly flu shot are often low quality studies that do not substantiate the official claims.
Promoting influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies in the United States, says Doshi of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. Drug companies and public officials press for widespread vaccination each fall, offering vaccinations in drugstores and supermarkets. The results have been phenomenal. Only 20 years ago, 32 million doses of influenza vaccine were available in the United States on an annual basis. Today, the total has skyrocketed to 135 million doses.
"The vaccine may be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza seems to be overstated," Doshi says. Mandatory vaccination polices have been enacted, often in healthcare facilities, forcing some people to take the vaccine under threat of losing their jobs. The main assertion of the CDC that fuels the push for flu vaccines each year is that influenza comes with a risk of serious complications which can cause death, especially in senior citizens and those suffering from chronic illnesses. That's not the case, said Doshi.
When read carefully, the CDC acknowledges that studies finding any perceived reduction in death rates may be due to the "healthy-user effect" — the tendency for healthier people to be vaccinated more than less-healthy people. The only randomized trial of influenza vaccine in older people found no decrease in deaths. "This means that influenza vaccines are approved for use in older people despite any clinical trials demonstrating a reduction in serious outcomes," says Doshi.
Even when the vaccine is closely matched to the type of influenza that's prevalent, which doesn't happen every year, randomized, controlled trials of healthy adults found that vaccinating between 33 and 100 people resulted in one less case of influenza. In addition, says Doshi, no evidence exists to show that this reduction in the risk of influenza for a specific population — here in the United States, among healthy adults, for example — extrapolates into any reduced risk of serious complications from influenza, such as hospitalizations or deaths, among seniors. "For most people, and possibly most doctors, officials need only claim that vaccines save lives, and it is assumed there must be solid research behind it," says Doshi. Unfortunately, that's not the case, he says.
Although the CDC implies that flu vaccines are safe and there's no need to weigh benefits against risk, Doshi disagrees. He points to an Australian study that found one in every 110 children under the age of five had convulsions following vaccinations in 2009 for H1N1 influenza. Additional investigations found that the H1N1 vaccine was also associated with a spike in cases of narcolepsy among adolescents.
More: Johns Hopkins Scientist Slams Flu Vaccine