How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?

The best and most comprehensive review on flu vaccine was released just recently. This study seems to have been originally designed to secure more government funding for influenza vaccines. But the results are chilling. The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) spent several years studying available flu vaccines, and concluded in their official press release that, “policy shifts toward a universal recommendation for influenza vaccination often were based on professional judgment and not on sound data.”

View the report as a powerpoint presentation, here.

Read the full report from CIDRAP at the University of Minnesota here.

The lead author of this important, (government-funded??) study, Dr. Osterholm, is director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP), director of the NIH-supported Center of Excellence for Influenza Research and Surveillance within CIDRAP, a professor in the Division of Environmental Health Sciences, School of Public Health, and an adjunct professor in the Medical School, University of Minnesota. He is also a member of the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academy of Sciences and the Council of Foreign Relations. In June 2005 Dr. Osterholm was appointed by Michael Leavitt, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), to the newly established National Science Advisory Board on Biosecurity. In July 2008, he was named to the University of Minnesota Academic Health Center’s Academy of Excellence in Health Research. In October 2008, he was appointed to the World Economic Forum Working Group on Pandemics.

Also, more information on how well the flu vaccines work can be found in the Cochrane Collaboration studies. This from coalition member Dorian Yates:

In terms of the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the international Cochrane Collaborative, which reviews scientific data for accuracy and lack of bias, has conducted numerous scientific reviews on the efficacy of flu vaccines. Its studies have found that there is no compelling data to demonstrate the efficacy of the vaccine in preventing flu nor its ability to affect lost working days.

In its review of health care workers and the elderly:
“We conclude that there is no evidence that only vaccinating healthcare workers prevents laboratory-proven influenza, pneumonia, and death from pneumonia in elderly residents in long-term care facilities.—

Its review of 75 studies on the efficacy of the flu vaccine to prevent flu in the elderly, the Collaborative found, “Due to the poor quality of the available evidence, any conclusions regarding the effects of influenza vaccines for people aged 65 years or older cannot be drawn.”

Cochrane also reviewed studies on the effectiveness of the vaccine in preventing flu in healthy adults. The review found that, “Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalised or working days lost but caused one case of Guillian-Barré syndrome (a major neurological condition leading to paralysis) for every one million vaccinations. —”

While assessing the ability of flu vaccine to prevent flu in healthy children, the review concluded that, “In children under the age of two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo.”—