It’s that time of year again.

You can’t even go to stores without being bombarded with signs and displays promoting it.

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Everywhere you go, people are talking about it.

After all, it is a very profitable time of year.

‘Tis the season, as they say.

No, I’m not referring to the holiday season – I’m referring to flu shot season.

What are the reasons the flu vaccine is being pushed onto us so forcefully? Is the flu THAT deadly? Does the government truly have our best interests in mind?

As someone with a health sciences background who has been researching vaccinations for over twenty years and has personal experience with vaccine reactions and failures, I have made an informed decision to opt out of getting the flu shot.

Here are my reasons.

Hype, fear-mongering, and propaganda: What’s the underlying agenda?

The mainstream media would have you believe that the flu is a killer virus that leaves thousands dead in its path every year.

But how many people actually die of influenza annually?

It’s hard to find accurate statistics on this because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is the government agency that tracks disease outbreaks, and they, well…they claim they don’t know the answer.

Here are the reasons the CDC says it can’t determine exactly how many people die from the flu each year:

  • States are not required to report flu-related deaths in people over age 18
  • People sometimes die from flu-related complications or secondary infections and not the flu itself
  • Medical care is sometimes sought too late for influenza to be detected via respiratory samples, or test results are flawed (false negatives can occur with some tests)

Because the actual number of deaths via flu are supposedly impossible to count, the CDC estimates flu-associated deaths based on death certificate information. And, because flu seasons vary in length and severity, the agency says “a range of estimated deaths is a better way to represent the variability and unpredictability of flu.”

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So, with all of that being said, what is the estimated number of people in the U.S. who die of the flu every year?

Here’s the CDC’s answer:

CDC estimates that from the 1976-1977 season to the 2006-2007 flu season, flu-associated deaths ranged from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.

In other words, deaths linked to the flu range from 3,000 to 49,000 per year.

About 90% of those deaths are in people age 65 and over.

This is the last item on the CDC’s page about estimating flu deaths:

Does CDC think that influenza causes most P&I (pneumonia and influenza) deaths?

No, only a small proportion of deaths in either of these two categories are estimated to be influenza-related. CDC estimated that only 8.5% of all pneumonia and influenza deaths and only 2.1% of all respiratory and circulatory deaths were influenza-related.

Translation: of the death certificates that list “P&I” as the cause of death, a small fraction of those are deaths that are ACTUALLY caused by the flu.

That’s not even close to the “36,000 estimated deaths annually” that is commonly recited in scaremongering articles about the flu.

And that number is FAR higher than the count other official agencies report, as Lawrence Solomon explains in his article Don’t Believe Everything You Read About Flu Deaths:

According to the National Vital Statistics System in the U.S., for example, annual flu deaths in 2010 amounted to just 500 per year — fewer than deaths from ulcers (2,977), hernias (1,832) and pregnancy and childbirth (825), and a far cry from the big killers such as heart disease (597,689) and cancers (574,743). The story is similar in Canada, where unlikely killers likewise dwarf Statistics Canada’s count of flu deaths.

Even that 500 figure for the U.S. could be too high, according to analyses in authoritative journals such as the American Journal of Public Health and the British Medical Journal. Only about 15-20 per cent of people who come down with flu-like symptoms have the influenza virus — the other 80-85 per cent actually caught rhinovirus or other germs that are indistinguishable from the true flu without laboratory tests, which are rarely done. In 2001, a year in which death certificates listed 257 Americans as having died of flu, only 18 were positively identified as true flus. The other 239 were simply assumed to be flus and most likely had few true flus among them. (source)

So, why is the CDC hyping up flu death numbers?

Solomon explained that too. Warning: this is probably going to make you angry.

The CDC’s decision to play up flu deaths dates back a decade, when it realized the public wasn’t following its advice on the flu vaccine. During the 2003 flu season “the manufacturers were telling us that they weren’t receiving a lot of orders for vaccine,”Dr. Glen Nowak, associate director for communications at CDC’s National Immunization Program, told National Public Radio. “It really did look like we needed to do something to encourage people to get a flu shot.”

The CDC’s response was its “Seven-Step ‘Recipe‘ for Generating Interest in, and Demand for, Flu (or any other) Vaccination,” a slide show Nowak presented at the 2004 National Influenza Vaccine Summit.

Here is the “Recipe that fosters influenza vaccine interest and demand,” in the truncated language that appears on his slides: “Medical experts and public health authorities [should] publicly (e.g. via media) state concern and alarm (and predict dire outcomes) – and urge influenza vaccination.” This recipe, his slide show indicated, would result in “Significant media interest and attention … in terms that motivate behavior (e.g. as ‘very severe,’ ‘more severe than last or past years,’ ‘deadly’).” Other emotive recommendations included fostering “the perception that many people are susceptible to a bad case of influenza” and “Visible/tangible examples of the seriousness of the illness (e.g., pictures of children, families of those affected coming forward) and people getting vaccinated (the first to motivate, the latter to reinforce).”

There you have it: exaggerated statistics, fear-mongering, and outright lies used to promote an agenda.

But why? Why distort facts and use scare tactics to push people to get flu shots?

Follow the money. Always follow the money.

The global flu vaccine market is $3.6 billion. It will probably come as no surprise that the U.S. is the largest and most profitable flu shot market in the world. Pushing the flu vaccine means big money not only for the vaccine manufacturers, but also for the retail outlets that are giving the vaccinations.

It used to be that you had to go to a medical facility to get the flu shot. Not so, these days. Walk into just about any drugstore and you’ll see all sorts of incentives and offers to get the arm stick. Retailers like Safeway, Giant Food, CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Kmart, Wal-Mart, and Target offer coupons, discounts, and other perks to customers who get vaccinated in their stores.

Everyone wants their piece of the profit.

Come one, come all

Influenza shots weren’t always a “come one, come all” kind of deal. In the 1990s, the shots were generally recommended for those 65 and older and people with chronic illness.

In 2000, the recommendations changed.

The vaccine liability protection that Congress gave doctors and drug companies in 1986 and the public-private business partnership between government and the pharmaceutical industry that Congress created after Sept. 11, 2001, are really paying off for liability-free drug companies and liability-free doctors selling flu shots. After all, their potential market is tremendous, because the shot is being recommended for just about everyone now.

In fact, just like other vaccines on the ever-growing roster (currently 69 recommended doses of 16 different vaccines), some states are trying to mandate the flu shot. Have a vaccine exemption? Some states would like to see those disappear – even medical exemptions for people who could become very ill or die after being vaccinated.

It is interesting to note that the U.S. and Canada are the only countries that recommend the flu shot for everyone over 6 months of age.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), not a single country in Europe asks their total population to get the vaccine. The WHO only recommends the flu shot for six “priority populations” because evidence that more than those six high-risk groups benefit from the vaccine is limited.

The reasons other countries don’t push for mass flu vaccinations are interesting:

Global health experts say the data aren’t there yet to support this kind of blanket vaccination policy, nor is there enough money. In fact, some scientists say the enthusiasm for mass vaccination in the United States may hurt efforts to create a better vaccine.

In Europe, only doctors are legally allowed to administer the vaccine.

There may be another economic reason for more Americans to get vaccinated — one in three U.S. workers get no paid time off when they are sick, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Generally, Europeans have much more generous sick leave policies.

“Although flu can be unpleasant, if you are otherwise healthy, the illness will usually clear up on its own and you will recover within a week,” according to Britain’s National Health Service website.

Questionable Efficacy

The U.S., Canada, and the WHO agree on ONE thing: that people over the age of 65 should get the flu shot.

But even that recommendation is questionable, because studies have shown that annual influenza vaccination in the elderly only has an efficacy of 17–53%.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the Minnesota Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance at the University of Minnesota, expressed concern over inflated public confidence in the flu vaccine. Dr. Osterholm co-authored “The Compelling Need for Game-Changing Influenza Vaccines,” which was published in October 2012. The authors reviewed more than 12,000 articles, studies and transcripts dating back to 1936 and interviewed 88 experts on the influenza vaccine.

They found that, even in good years, the flu shot only offers moderate protection:

A “pooled estimate of 59% for healthy adults 18 to 64 years of age, inconsistent evidence of protection in children age 2 to 17 years, and a paucity of evidence for protection in adults 65 years of age and older.”

For the nasal spray form of the vaccine, there is evidence of high protection for children aged 6 months to 7 years, inconsistent evidence of protection in adults 60 years of age and older, and a lack of evidence of protection in individuals between 8 and 59 years of age, the study says.

That analysis shows significantly less effectiveness than what has been the conventional wisdom within the scientific community, Osterholm said.

“In promoting vaccination, it became a mantra that it was 70 to 90% effective across all ages completely, and that wasn’t true,” Osterholm said. Historically, this expansion in policy over who should get vaccinated was based on “professional judgment and not on scientifically sound data,” he said. (source)

Researchers try to determine which of the main flu viruses are going to cause illness in the upcoming “flu season.” There is no guarantee that the shot will work. Here’s an explanation from the CDC:

During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating viruses, it’s possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed. During years when there is a good match between the flu vaccine and circulating viruses, it’s possible to measure substantial benefits from vaccination in terms of preventing flu illness. However, even during years when the vaccine match is very good, the benefits of vaccination will vary across the population, depending on characteristics of the person being vaccinated and even, potentially, which vaccine was used.

Recent studies show vaccine can reduce the risk of flu illness by about 60% among the overall population during seasons when most circulating flu viruses are like the viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against.

In his 2011 article titled Flu Shots: Panacea or Propaganda? Dr. Mark Hyman summarized the findings reported in a review paper published by the international, independent, non-profit Cochrane Collaboration group in July of 2010:

A comprehensive of the flu research in healthy adults aged 18-65 from 1960 to the present including over 40 clinical trials with over 70,000 people found no evidence of benefit for the flu vaccine. Most trials were poorly done, or inadequate to reach clear conclusions. Only the best 50 studies were included in the final analysis.

The only studies that showed benefit were industry funded. Despite this bias they tended to be published in the most prestigious journals and were the ones most widely quoted, while the publicly funded studies were less likely to show favorable conclusions.

They found cases of severe harm and inadequate reporting of adverse effects of the flu vaccine.

There are different 200+ strains of flu and viruses that infect people every year. The vaccine covers only about 10 percent of the virus strains that make people sick.

If the vaccine strain given in a particular vaccination happened to match the virus caught by the vaccinated person, the likelihood of getting sick from the flu was only reduced from 4 percent to 1 percent.

There was NO evidence that the vaccine reduced transmission of the flu (a major rationale for mass vaccination) or complications such as pneumonia (another major justification).

These conclusions included the data from biased industry studies yet still found no benefit except small reductions in flu symptoms in some industry studies.

They warned that their already negative conclusions may be UNDERSTATED because of the inclusion of industry funded studies in their review.

Here’s the conclusion of that review:

The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.

The results of this review seem to discourage the utilization of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure. As healthy adults have a low risk of complications due to respiratory disease, the use of the vaccine may be only advised as an individual protection measure against symptoms in specific cases.

Risky Business

Is it worth getting a vaccine that, at best, has a 60% efficacy rate?

If the vaccine was harmless, why not?

But here’s the thing: it isn’t.

As of September 2014, there have been 97,888 reports of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following influenza vaccinations made to the federal Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS).

The following chart shows the events reported by age:

age chart flu reactions

In those who are 65 or older, not only is the flu vaccine less effective, it is also likely more risky.

As of September 2014, 1,147 deaths linked to flu shots were recorded in VAERS:

death chart

Considering how many people receive the flu vaccine every year, the death toll may seem relatively low.

But I’m not willing to play vaccine roulette. I’m just not. I had H1N1 a couple of years ago. Sure, I felt pretty lousy for about a week, but I survived and have natural immunity now.

And death isn’t the only risk associated with the flu shot, anyway:

Reported moderate reactions to influenza vaccine include fever, local reactions (pain, redness, swelling at the site of the injection), headache, fatigue, sore throat, nasal congestion, cough, joint and muscle pain, and nausea. Reported serious complications include brain inflammation, convulsions, Bell’s palsy, limb paralysis, neuropathy, shock,  wheezing/asthma and other breathing problems. Guillain Barre Syndrome (GBS) is a disabling neurological disorder that involves temporary or permanent paralysis that can lead to death and has been causally related to influenza vaccinations. (source)

No thanks. I’ll pass. If it isn’t broken, why “fix” it?

Here’s a breakdown of VAERS report data as of November 2013:

There have been more than 93,000 reports of reactions, hospitalizations, injuries and deaths following influenza vaccinations made to VAERS, including 1,080 related deaths, 8,888 hospitalizations, 1,801 related disabilities and over 1,700 cases of GBS.  In 2013 the Federal Advisory Commission on Childhood Vaccines (ACCV) voted to add GBS to the Vaccine Injury Table within the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program (VICP). (source)

Adult influenza vaccine injury claims are now the leading claim submitted to the federal Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, which is a “no-fault alternative to the traditional tort system for resolving vaccine injury claims that provides compensation to people found to be injured by certain vaccines.” The U. S. Court of Federal Claims decides who will be paid. The three Federal government offices that have a role in the VICP are the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), and the U.S. Court of Federal Claims (the Court).

To date, 3,764 compensation awards have been made. More than $2.8 billion in compensation awards has been paid to petitioners and more than $117.1 million has been paid to cover attorneys’ fees and other legal costs.

Sure, those side effects aren’t really common, but they do happen. There’s no way to know who is going to be the unlucky recipient of a nasty reaction.

Icky Ingredients

The flu vaccine contains some pretty nasty ingredients like formaldehyde and Thimerosal, which is a mercury derivative. For specific ingredients, precautions, and side effects of each vaccination option for the 2014-2015 flu season, refer to the CDC’s flu vaccine page or their vaccine table.

The choice is yours…

The reasons I discussed above are enough for me to decide to skip the flu shot this year (and heck, every year).

Ultimately, of course, the choice is yours. Just be sure to make an informed decision either way.

As for me, well…I’m going to focus on prevention, because I believe in the old adage “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” (or, instead of “a shot of questionable, ineffective ingredients,” perhaps I should say).

For tips on how to boost your immune system and avoid catching the flu, please check out the following articles:

How to Reduce Your Risk of Catching the Flu This Year

Boosting Your Immune System: What Not to Eat

Boosting Your Immune System: 6 Things You Need to Be Eating

Lily Dane is a staff writer for The Daily Sheeple. Her goal is to help people to “Wake the Flock Up!”