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Flu shots

"Not enough evidence" to support winter flu shots for seasonal flu, declare researchers

Monday, October 30, 2006 by: Jerome Douglas
Tags: flu shots, flu vaccines, infectious disease


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(NewsTarget) A re-evaluation is needed on the concept of yearly flu vaccinations, according to the British Medical Journal.

Tom Jefferson, who was quoted in the BMJ article, said much of the data supporting yearly flu vaccinations was flawed and found that there was little merit in wintertime flu shots. BMJ editor Fiona Godlee agreed, stating that she was critical of the way the UK evaluated the merits and costs of annual flu shots, calling for change in British procedure.

Jefferson said taxpayers should ask about the correlation between flu vaccination evidence and policies that cost them money. The BMJ's Godlee furthered the notion by saying that "The problem is that the UK has no transparent process for evaluating the effectiveness or cost effectiveness of vaccines."

The British government's drug watchdog -- the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) -- has already said it would be happy to take over the position of determining if yearly flu vaccinations are worthy of the costs and resources involved.

"NICE would like to take this on. The government should let it," suggested Godlee.

In Britain, experts say groups most at risk -- such as the elderly -- should get the vaccine during the flu season. However, it is difficult for scientists to make the vaccine because the influenza viruses mutate, and the strains circulating vary each year.

Dr. David Salisbury, director of immunization at the Department of Health, acknowledged that the vaccines were not perfect, but said evidence showed flu vaccines could give up to 80 percent protection from infection, and prevented hospitalizations and deaths as well. "We are hopeful that new vaccines currently in development may overcome some of the concerns raised about efficacy."

But some disagree with the concept of yearly flu vaccinations entirely. "The winter flu shot myth is based entirely on junk science designed to serve the interests of pharmaceutical companies who sell the vaccines," explained Mike Adams, consumer health advocate and author of "Conquering the Common Cold."

"An honest look at the science reveals the unavoidable truth about flu shots -- they're virtually worthless at preventing the flu," Adams said. "People would be much better off to skip the shots and engage in healthier exercise and dietary habits."

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