Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Flu shot? [chortle] No. [smirk]

Yeah: When Satan builds a snow fort.

From the HSI E-alert e-mail that I get. (Sign up at HSI Baltimore.)

Why I won't get a flu shot--and no one else should either.
Dear Reader,

Have you ever wondered why a government agency spends so much time and energy (not to mention tax dollars) trying to convince you to get a flu vaccination every year?

Is it some sort of vague “for our own good” motivation? If so, then why don’t we ever hear any government officials urging everyone to take vitamin C supplements?

Why? Because it’s all about selling The Shot. And 2005 is no different.

Leading the way to vaccinations

Every year we get an official flu vaccine media blitz from Department of Health and Human services (HHS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, the CDC oversees a National Immunization Program (NIP). The motto of the NIP is: “Leading the way to healthy lives.”

Healthy lives? Okay, so again: Why aren’t these officials urging U.S. citizens to take vitamin C and other supplements that have been shown to help reduce the risk of picking up colds and influenza?

It’s simple. The folks at the NIP have millions of vaccine units to move.

According to The Detroit News, most flu vaccines are purchased and distributed by the government. So why in the world would NIP officials promote vitamin C? That job would be the responsibility of those who actually sell vitamin C. The NIP isn’t in the vitamin supplement business; it’s in the flu vaccine business.

We’re overstocked! Everything must go!

In September, HHS and CDC officials were saying that the elderly, infants, people with chronic health problems and health workers should all get vaccinated. But when it became obvious last month that about 70 million flu shots will be available in the U.S. this season, health officials changed their recommendation to include everyone.

Everyone! Well…not quite everyone. Children under six months of age, those who are allergic to eggs and those who have had poor reactions to flu shots in the past should not be vaccinated, we’re told. But for the rest of us: “There is no reason for anyone to delay or to go without their annual flu shot,” HHS Secretary Michael O. Leavitt told WebMD Medical News at the end of October.

Well…I can think of at least one reason.

In a February 2005 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases compared flu-related mortality among older people to rates of immunization. Their finding: During the past quarter century, immunization rates for the elderly have climbed substantially while the elderly flu-related mortality rate has stayed the same.

The authors of the research wrote: “We conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”

The seasonal question

“Should I get a flu shot?” That question is a frequent one in e-mails from members this time of year. And while each person has to make the flu shot decision on his own, here are three points to consider:

Point One: Flu shots are not reliably effective (see above).

Point Two: Flu shots contain additives you may not want in your body. In addition to strains of dead flu virus, each shot contains:

* Thimerosal (a mercury derivative added as a preservative)
* Formaldehyde (to kill viruses)
* Aluminum (to promote antibody response)
* Ethylene glycol (also known as antifreeze, used in vaccines as a disinfectant)

You can ask your doctor about the FluMist nasal spray vaccine (which avoids an injection), but it's much more expensive than a flu shot and it contains living flu virus. Squirt a living virus straight into my head? thanks.

Point Three: The flu shot is designed to prepare the immune system to fight specific virus strains. But you can prepare and strengthen your immune system without an injection of antifreeze by taking these steps:

* Exercise regularly
* Eat a balanced diet of nutritious, fresh, whole foods
* Manage stress levels (See the e-Alert "Easy Does It" 11/26/03)
* Get the right amount of sleep

And you can further prepare with proven immune system enhancers, such as echinacea, vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene; all of which have been shown to help fight colds and flu. Selenium is also an effective flu fighter, as is zinc and N-acetylcysteine (NAC), an amino acid that stimulates your body to produce the powerful antioxidant enzyme glutathione.

To find out about other effective ways to enhance your immune system you can read the e-Alert "Fantastic Four" (10/3/05) on our web site at

Vitamin C. Hammer the Vitamin C. Get some of the chewable, sugar-free 500mg Vitamin C (they're cheap and tasty--GNC sells them), and pound those things back like candy. The Mrs. and I are hitting it to the tune of 2000mg/day and up, and if/when we start to feel something coming on, we'll probably double that. A common dosage recommendation is to keep taking it until your bowels "get loose", then cut back a bit. I've heard of doctors who recommend up to 10,000mg/day. (Don't take it all at once--spread it out, for Pete's sake.)

Get you a good quality multi-vitamin, too: Not the kind they sell at Wal-Mart, either. Go to a natural foods or vitamin store and get something that contains well over 100% of US RDA--it won't kill you.