Should you get a flu shot? Public health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, as well as most primary care physicians would answer this question with an emphatic yes. But if you’re the kind of person who wants good solid evidence showing safety and effectiveness to back your medical decisions, then the answer is no.
Over the years, I have interviewed Tom Jefferson, MD, on this topic because he is arguably the world’s most knowledgeable expert on seasonal flu vaccine studies. Over the last two decades, he has co-authored numerous reviews on this topic for Cochrane Collaboration, an independent international organization that evaluates research — in this case, 50 years’worth of studies. He has been assessing the best available evidence for answers to such crucial questions as: Are seasonal influenza vaccines safe? Do they reduce the rate of death, sick days, pneumonia, hospitalizations in elderly people, people with chronic obstructive lung disease, babies, healthy adults, etc?
These questions were on my mind when I interviewed Dr. Jefferson in 2006, after he had issued a damning report entitled, “The prevention of seasonal influenza—policy versus evidence.” He found nothing that would inspire confidence in seasonal influenza vaccines. “Given the huge resources involved in yearly vaccination campaigns, a re-evaluation should be urgently undertaken.”
Was that re-evaluation ever conducted? Has anything changed in the six years following your devastating critique, I asked Dr. Jefferson recently by email. “No,” was his quick response.
With this last post, I leave you with several relevant links from our archives:
The 2006 interview with Dr. Jefferson, which lays out the difficulties in proving that flu vaccines actually work.
Remember the swine flu, aka H1N1 influenza? The pandemic that wasn’t.
Flu risk overrated The death count following the swine flu “pandemic.”
For more on the work of Tom Jefferson, type his name in the search box on our home page. Type the word Tamiflu in the search box for information about this drug, which is widely prescribed to prevent and treat influenza.
Read this November 2012 New York Times article , which comfirms the lack of good research supporting seasonal flu vaccine.
About Children and flu vaccines: The above refers to the effectiveness of flu vaccines in adults. New research indicates a modest effectiveness of flu vaccines in children over age two years.
Maryann Napoli, Center for Medical Consumers©