Weighing the Health Benefits of the Flu Vaccine
The flu vaccine has become a ‘must have’ in health media campaigns and conventional medical doctors’ offices. The vaccine is meant to prevent the annual flu which can cause physical discomfort, lost days at work or school, and inconvenience. These reasons alone are cause to consider an annual flu vaccination. There are, however, risks as well as health benefits to having an annual flu.
The flu vaccine has one benefit; it provides limited protection against an annual flu. Flu vaccine effectiveness can range from year to year. In certain years, the efficacy rate of the flu vaccine can be very low if the flu vaccine is mismatched or miscalculated to the current flu viruses in circulation. Additionally, there have been reports of inflammatory and neurological conditions including Alzheimer’s and Guillain-Barre Syndrome that have occurred in individuals following flu vaccinations.1,2
Flu vaccines are most beneficial and advisable for those members of the population who have a greater risk of long-term health consequences from the flu, such as those who are immunocompromised or the elderly. The general population typically does not have a deeper health need for an annual flu vaccine. In fact, a newer study by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy suggests consecutive annual vaccines can cause lowered immunity to viruses in the second year.3 The study suggests considering a flu vaccine every other year to optimize efficacy.
An annual flu experience can, however, train the immune system how to respond effectively to the environment to achieve a stronger immune system for the long term. The body’s immune system is trained by viruses, bacteria, and environmental antigens that are encountered. While a flu vaccine does give exposure to a virus and create antibodies, the body mounting a full immune response to viral overload teaches the body how to fight. Although it is easy to see ‘catching the flu’ as an immune system weakness, it is actually a display of the power of the body to fight viruses effectively. A display of immune system weakness is if a person experiences more than two flus per year or never experiences the flu. These two issues show the person is not fighting flu viruses very well, or not mounting an immune system response at all, which can indicate a body that is unable to fight environmental antigens.
A common sense recommendation, to avoid overexposure to vaccinations that may limit vaccine effectiveness and introduce vaccine-preserving agents into the body’s system, is to consider flu vaccines for those that have weakened systems by age or health circumstances. Most children need to experience flus to build and train their immune system, unless they are considered more susceptible to damaging health effects from a flu virus.
Dr. Sinsheimer is a naturopathic doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.
References: 1) http://healthimpactnews.com/2014/flu-vaccine-is-the-most-dangerous-vaccine-in-the-united-states-based-on-settled-cases-for-injuries; 2) https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/10/31/flu-vaccination-epa-safety-limit-for-mercury.aspx; 3) http://www.cidrap.umn.edu/news-perspective/2014/11/study-adds-more-data-effects-consecutive-year-flu-shots