Flu jab – yes or no?

Are you going to have the flu jab this winter, for which your GP will be paid £10.06? Firstly, let me make it clear that there is nothing new or different about this year’s flu vaccine compared to last other than the blend of viral strains in the mix. It is not, as some say, being given in a higher dose. Nor does it have any ‘coronavirus’ component. Coronaviruses are a common cause of colds, but no-one has yet made a successful vaccine against any strains of coronavirus which is why the current attempt to do so against coronavirus SARSCoV2 is a challenge.

Whether or not this RNA vaccine will prove to be effective it still must go through Phase 3b trials – that is monitoring for adverse effects when given to large numbers of people for a year. Whether it passes this normal safety test remains to be seen but, as I’ve said since the start, nothing proven safe can be ready this winter.

Every year the vaccine experts place their bets. In a good year that achieve 50% efficacy and in a bad year 10% efficacy – eg 1 in 10 who are vaccinated and get exposed to a flu virus benefit with less severe symptoms or duration. The UK seems to have stopped monitoring, or publishing efficacy, the last figures of which are for 2017/8, was 12% effective for adults up to 65 and 10% effective for those over 65. In the US last year’s flu vaccine was apparently 29% effective. This means that 3 in ten having a shot, if exposed to flu, don’t succumb. But these observational studies, quoting an article in the British Medical Journal headed ‘Doubletalk hides serious problems with flu shot safety and effectiveness’ says “They do not mention that these studies make no effort to look for adverse vaccine effects (e.g. narcolepsy, seizures, high fever, oculorespiratory syndrome). They do not mention “negative vaccine effectiveness”, the increase in risk of illness from influenza and non-influenza viruses associated with (or caused by) the vaccines. They do not mention that a vaccine “effective” in one season may increase influenza risk in a subsequent season. (Read about “antibody-dependent enhancement” to understand one explanatory mechanism). They do not mention that the observational studies they refer to are likely to exaggerate vaccine effectiveness in the first place because of the “healthy user effect” well known to epidemiologists.”

Personally, at the age of 62, I’m not going to have the flu vaccine but I entirely respect someone who chooses to, perhaps because they are older, more vulnerable, with more compromised immune systems. These are my reasons:

  1. The flu jab, for my age group, is unlikely to be more than 30% effective.
  2. The latest comprehensive review of vitamin C shows up to 46% reduction in duration of colds, and also reduction in severity, reported in those taking 8 grams of vitamin C in the first day of a cold/flu, although there is some evidence than 15-20 grams within 24 hours of first symptoms would be more effective. This is what I do, and recommend, taking around 1 gram an hour, or 2 grams every two hours. If your vitamin C also has zinc and black elderberry it is likely to be even more effective. I very much doubt flu would ever be fatal if all ‘at risk’ eg elderly people did this on first signs of symptoms. In other words, this approach of boosting immunity with vitamins, including getting your vitamin D level up to 100µmol/l, is likely to be more effective. (You could do both.)
  3. There is a risk of adverse effects. Also evidence that those vaccinated and more susceptible the following year. I’m concerned about the effects on children and pregnant mothers. Again, quoting the BMJ ‘large cohort study found that flu shots given during the first trimester of pregnancy were associated with a 20% increase in autism spectrum disorder in the offspring. The authors acknowledged that, if it was causal, would mean four additional autism cases for every 1000 mothers vaccinated.’ In the UK it’s virtually impossible to get any reliable data on numbers. While I’m reading reports of deaths associated with this year’s flu vaccine I also know that the UK government is in so much denial that any vaccines can harm anyone I doubt we’ll ever have clear information on the scale of risk, which I assume to be small, but maybe greater in exactly those most vulnerable, with weaker immune systems, who thus are more likely to opt for the vaccine.
  4. I don’t like putting aluminium, in any quantity, into my body. The flu jab contains aluminium as an adjuvant to spur the immune system to attack the viruses. Personally, I don’t want to inject aluminium, even in tiny quantities, into my body unless there’s a really compelling reason and no safer alternative.
  5. The flu vaccine won’t create herd immunity. The ‘herd immunity’ argument – that if everyone is vaccinated the disease (for example, smallpox) can be eradicated – does not apply to the flu vaccine because the influenza virus is endlessly mutating into different forms. One could argue that, if all were vaccinated flu might spread less, but this would need to be demonstrated.
    6. The flu vaccine is unlikely to take the load off the NHS re covid-19. Firstly, it takes doctors and nurses to deliver vaccines so their time gets used up. Secondly, covid-related ICU admissions and deaths are going down, not up, and there’s plenty of capacity. Since the flu vaccine has no coronaviruse component, just like last year’s, any dreams that it will reduce a person’s chances of getting covid-19 are not based in fact. If the goal was to take the burden off the NHS then getting everyone’s vitamin D levels up, and recommending daily vitamin C supplementation, and high dose vitamin C supplementation when infected would be easier and cheaper and, I suspect, more effective.

One of the reasons there’s such a big push by your GP to have the flu vaccine is that’s they get a kickback. On the subject of fees I do think GPs should come clean about what they earn from flu vaccinations at the point of promoting the vaccination. Everyone reading this knows that I have a range of supplements including vitamin C and get 5% commission (thank you) but does everyone know their GP is earning significant money from giving flu vaccinations? The British Medical Association says it’s £10.06 a shot. If a GP has 2,000 patients that’s over £20,000. 20 grams of vitamin C, with zinc and black elderberry costs under £3, just to put this into perspective.