Do You Need the Flu Shot?
By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post November 1, 2001; Page A11
Taking a flu shot will not help people tell if they have anthrax, health officials said on October 31, as medical groups sought to prevent anthrax fears from causing a run on influenza vaccine.
Doctors reported that many people are asking for flu vaccine in the mistaken belief that if they develop flu-like symptoms after they have been vaccinated, they will know they have anthrax. The early symptoms of anthrax resemble the flu.
In reality, experts said, taking a flu shot will not help diagnose anthrax, because numerous viruses cause flu-like symptoms.
"We want to separate the idea that getting vaccinated [for flu] increases or decreases your fears about getting anthrax," said Keiji Fukuda, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "When people get vaccinated against influenza they have decreased their chances of getting the flu, but they can get infected by cold viruses."
Influenza causes far more deaths -- about 20,000 a year in the United States -- than does anthrax. Some public health experts said the flu´s toll ought to prompt nearly everyone to be vaccinated, which would require more vaccine than is now available.
Manufacturers have sent about 45 million doses of flu vaccine to clinics and hospitals this fall, and 40 million more are scheduled to be shipped soon.
Helen Schauffler, professor of health policy at the University of California at Berkeley, said vaccinations could save the lives of many elderly people and protect younger adults from missing work.
"The flu shot is always good medicine," said William Hall, president of the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine.
Hall´s group said the emphasis should be on vaccinating high-risk groups: the elderly, health care workers, and people with heart and lung problems. But "we´re also recommending that most adults take the flu shot [and] not to panic if they don´t get it in October. December would be fine," he said.
About 60 million people fall into the high-risk category, but only 60 to 70 percent of them have taken flu shots in past years.
The American Medical Association said doctors have not reported any problem in vaccine availability. Last week, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy G. Thompson called on vaccine makers to avoid last year´s problems, when some elderly people could not obtain vaccinations early in the flu season.
"If we take October as a priority month for the higher-risk people, then as we go into November and December, [plenty of flu vaccine] will be available for other people," said Timothy Flaherty, chairman of the American Medical Association.
Distribution problems and shortages early in the season are usually a bigger headache than the overall amount of vaccine available, experts said.
"It would be a great boon if it ran out, but I don´t think that has been a problem for as far as I can remember," said Richard Levinson, associate executive director of the American Public Health Association. "It is always a battle to get people to take their immunizations."
Washington Post November 1, 2001; Page A11
DR. MERCOLA´S COMMENT:
"Experts" tell us now is the time for persons over age 65 and those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes and asthma to get vaccinated against influenza.
They then advise that healthy people aged 64 and younger should wait until November to get the flu shot because of limited supplies in October.
During an average flu season, up to 20,000 Americans die as a result of influenza-related complications. That number is likely to double in a severe season, Dr. Nancy Cox of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta told a press conference, which was convened by the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and the National Coalition for Adult
Despite fewer companies making influenza vaccine this year, health officials predict that a total of 79 million doses will be produced this flu season -- exceeding the 2000 supply. Approximately 45 million doses of influenza vaccine already are in doctor´s offices, hospitals and clinics, and 34 million additional doses are slated for delivery in November and early December.
The "experts" will use fear to motivate people to get a flu shot. Let´s be clear, flu can definitely be a killer disease and it is not something that should be easily dismissed.
However, does that only leave you one option, that option being to get a flu shot?
It is our collective experience that the flu shot does NOT prevent illness in most people, but actually does the opposite.
It weakens the immune system and makes the person actually more predisposed to the illness.
It is my recommendation to avoid the flu shot just like you would avoid anthrax, and concentrate on eliminating the destroyer of health from your diet, which is sugar, by following the eating plan.