Competing Flu Vaccine Narratives
Before we examine the controversy regarding the effectiveness of the annual flu vaccine and what alternatives are believed to be of value, let me issue the obligatory disclaimer. [This article is for informational purposes and not intended to dispense medical advice].
As a point of full disclosure, I personally have not received a flu vaccination for at least the past 35 years and perhaps none prior to that. During that period of time, I would say that I have experienced flu symptoms perhaps 3 or 4 times. Since adopting some lifestyle changes, I have not experienced the flu in at least 16 years.
OK, that said, there is an fierce argument between those who defend the customary medical protocol of vaccinations and those who contend that the risks can outweigh the claimed benefits. This extends to the yearly flu season.
The medical community, in large part, are very emphatic about the influenza vaccine being the only demonstrated means of preventing the onset of the flu. The extent of the problem? Influenza worldwide results in an estimated 3 to 5 million cases of various degrees of severity – and roughly 500,000 deaths.
In the U.S., the number of flu victims hospitalized ranges from between 140,000 to over 700,000 depending on the season. Epidemiologists estimate that tens of thousands of deaths result from the complications of the flu in America – most attributable to compromised immune systems in the very young and elderly.
What is causing many people to reconsider the established wisdom of vaccination, are the reports that the flu vaccine is being demonstrated as being only marginally effective.
This season, a study from the journal Eurosurveillance revealed that the current flu shot is only 10 percent effective in preventing contracting the H3N2 virus in the 20 to 64 year old age category. Since 80 percent of the flu cases in the United States are attributable to H3N2, it’s clear why many more people are thinking about other approaches to defend against contracting the flu and its miserable symptoms.
One facet of the flu vaccine regime that is seldom disclosed by its proponents is the disclosure on the informational paperwork packaged with the vaccine, is this remarkable statement:
“There have been no controlled trials adequately demonstrating a decrease in influenza disease after vaccination with FLULAVAL. This vaccine has not been evaluated for carcinogenic or mutagenic potential”
Substances with “carcinogenic” potential pose increased risk of cancer. “Mutagenic” means the risk of gene mutation – in other words, altering your DNA.
Also notable are the side effects required to be included in the package inserts that disclose that known side effects including death, and yet they are marketed the same as over-the-counter drugs with no prescription needed. There are studies that also indicate an increased risk of contracting Guillain-Barré syndrome from receiving the flu shot.
The most often mentioned plan B from the medical / pharmaceutical industrial complex, in lieu of the flu shot is Tamiflu (Oseltamivir). But critics, even among the medical community, question the cost / benefit analysis, pointing out that the average lessening of the duration of flu symptoms experienced by those who took Tamiflu within 48 hours of the onset of indications – is only reduced by one day. Not likely to be worth a doctor visit unless you have been diagnosed with Pneumonia. Side effects have been reported as, nausea, diahrrea, vomiting, dizzyness, headaches and stomach discomfort.
So, what else is available as a proxy for the vaccine and Tamiflu? Let’s first note that the medical establishment is at best, skeptical of alternatives, telling would be self-medicators with supplements of various herbs and vitamins that there is a dearth of actual evidence based on medical studies that any of it is proven to be effective.
Nothing we will propose here, will resolve the debate between the conventional medical establishment and those who advocate natural methods, so we’ll lay out the most common alternate wisdom about means of protecting your health against the flu virus and let you decide for yourself.
The most sensible approach to the scourge of the flu season, is prevention. In the forefront of that is lifestyle changes. Key to that is taking a second look at nutrition and diet. A balanced diet can protect you from many more health hazards than merely the flu.
For this, it is advisable to look at whether you are consuming inordinate amounts of sugar and processed foods. It is not sensible to tell most people to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and starches from their diet. However, many people’s health is compromised by diets that are imbalanced with heavy intake of these and next to nothing of fruits, vegetables and other sources of anti-oxidants and immune boosting nutrients.
Many holistic health advocates are recommending you investigate Beta-Glucan, a fiber type complex sugar (polysaccharide) for immune boost. The University of Michigan’s health information website, shows the following assessment:
Another often touted preventative substance is Garlic. There is a wide range of quality among the products available in this category. Web MD describes Garlic as an “immunity boosting superstar”:
Today, at just 4 calories per clove, it’s a low-cal immunity-boosting superstar. One clove contains 5 mg of calcium, 12 mg of potassium, and more than 100 sulfuric compounds — powerful enough to wipe out bacteria and infection (it was used to prevent gangrene in both world wars). Raw garlic, not cooked or dried, is most beneficial for health, since heat and water inactivate sulfur enzymes, which can diminish garlic’s antibiotic effects. In clinical trials, the toxin-fighting staple seems to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and kill parasites in the body.
Although they note correctly that you can add Garlic to your nutritional regimen by adding it to your cooking, it is also possible to get it in concentrated form. In order to derive the best benefits of Garlic supplements, you should choose those that use organically grown and aged garlic. If the Garlic is not aged, you might have issues with burping, which is the reason many people shy away from it. I personally have employed Garlic as the main weapon in my arsenal against colds and the flu. The brand that I have used for over a decade has been Kyolic and it has been so successful that I have decided not to experiment with other sources.
Vitamin D is believed to be a valuable ally in the fight to supercharge the immune system’s natural defenses against influenza and other diseases.
The Institute of Medicine, in a long-awaited report released on November 30, 2010 recommends tripling the daily vitamin D intake for children and adults in the U.S. and Canada, to 600 IU per day.
The report also recognized the safety of vitamin D by increasing the upper limit from 2,000 to 4,000 IU per day, and acknowledged that even at 4,000 IU per day, there was no good evidence of harm.
General precautions against contracting the flu include a handful of practical and non-controversial practices.
- When you visit the supermarket, use the anti-bacterial wipes provided for the shopping cart.
- Wash your hands frequently during flu season.
- Avoid emergency rooms and busy medical waiting rooms unless you have a serious medical condition.
- Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth unless your hands are clean.
- When sneezing, blow into a tissue, not your hands.
- Stay home from work or school with flu symptoms.
- Properly hydrate, preferable with juices potent in Vitamin C.
- Manage your stress levels.
As Benjamin Franklin wisely noted, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”