Dr. Tom Jefferson, coordinator of the Cochrane Vaccines Field in Rome, Italy, conducted an extensive review of previous studies on the effectiveness of inactivated [dead virus] flu vaccines on hospital admissions, death rates and time off work.
"We've got an exaggerated expectation of what vaccines can actually do," Jefferson said. "I'm hoping American and European taxpayers will be alerted and start asking questions."
Most developed and developing countries have influenza vaccination programs that are believed to help reduce the number of flu deaths and hospitalizations. United States health authorities currently recommend flu vaccine shots for most Americans -- children 6 to 23 months; kids 23 months to 5 years old; those 50 and older; people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, HIV or heart disease; health-care professionals and caregivers; and anyone with household contact of high-risk individuals, such as stay-home mothers with young children.
Jefferson notes that recommendations for flu vaccines have significantly increased in recent years -- a move he says may not be justified.
"I looked at the evidence described by systematic reviews and confronted it with policy and I found that there is a massive gap," he said. "Almost none of the benefits that these policy documents list are actually given by inactivated vaccines or, if they are, they are given in slighter measure."
Consumer health advocate Mike Adams, author of "Conquering the Common Cold," called flu vaccine shots "one of the greatest medical cons perpetrated on the populations of the world," and questioned new U.S. policies pushing the vaccines on young children and expectant mothers.
"Flu shots only prevent colds in about 1 percent of people who get them, making them 99 percent useless," Adams said. "They also inject unhealthy substances such as mercury preservatives directly into tissues, poisoning the patient with a chemical burden that accumulates with each flu shot."