New research: no good scientific evidence flu shots are effective or safe for elders

Thursday, February 25, 2010 by: S. L. Baker, features writer
Tags: flu shots, scientific evidence, health news

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(NaturalNews) According to none other than the esteemed health experts of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) web site, "... people 65 and older should get their regular, or 'seasonal', flu vaccine as soon as possible...People age 65 and older are at increased risk for complications from seasonal influenza compared to younger people and are recommended for annual seasonal flu vaccines." If that's not enough to convince you older folks definitely need flu shots, try this proclamation from the National Institutes of Health (NIH): "You should get a flu shot every year if you are 50 or older ..."

It turns out, however, there's no valid scientific evidence to back up these recommendations. In fact, a new study just published in the Cochrane Systematic Review concludes: "Evidence for the safety and efficacy of influenza vaccines in the over 65s is poor, despite the fact that vaccination has been recommended for the prevention of influenza in older people for the past 40 years."

A research team conducted an extensive investigation of studies based on previous vaccine trials. Although randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are usually considered the true "gold standard" of medical research, out of 75 studies found there was only one recent RCT that had outcomes based on real flu vaccine given to real human beings. As the scientists pointed out in a statement to the media, this was the only RCT that used flu cases as an outcome, as opposed to so-called surrogate outcomes that simply look at measurements of influenza antibodies in the blood. All the other studies that were scrutinized were found to be not only of low quality but clearly open to a bias toward flu vaccines.

Based on the extremely limited evidence that appeared to be scientifically reliable, the scientists concluded that the effectiveness of flu vaccines at their very best is modest. "Our estimates are consistently below those usually quoted by economists and in decision making," lead researcher Tom Jefferson of the Cochrane Collaboration in Rome, Italy, said in a media statement. "But until we have all available evidence, it is hard to reach any clear conclusions about the effectiveness of influenza vaccines in older people."

"As the evidence is so scarce at the moment, we should be looking at other strategies to complement vaccinations. Some of these are very simple things like personal hygiene, and adequate food and water," Jefferson continued.

Along with elders, the medical establishment has pushed the importance of flu shots for healthcare workers. Jefferson is also one of the authors of a second review of flu vaccine research set for upcoming publication that looks at the issue of giving flu vaccinations to healthcare workers who work with the elderly. The results? Once again, Jefferson and his colleagues found the research is inconclusive, with each of the trials they studied turning out to be of "inadequate quality and reaching implausible conclusions". In fact, the researchers stated in a press statement that the lack of sound research left them unable to draw any conclusions about whether vaccinating healthcare workers helps at all to prevent flu symptoms and deaths from flu in people over the age of 60.

Last fall, Mike Adams of NaturalNews reached similar conclusions to the Cochrane researchers' just published report (http://www.naturalnews.com/027258_vaccines_f...). After reviewing the supposed science backing flu shots, he wrote: "To hear the vaccination zealots say it, vaccines are backed by 'good science,' they've been 'proven effective' and they're 'perfectly safe.' Oh really? Where's all that good science? As it turns out, there isn't any."

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