A reader just asked if there was any truth to the report that’s flooded the internet under the heading “Study Verifies That There Is No Value In Any Flu Vaccine.”
In order to grab attention most headlines stretch the truth. This one does a bit, but the facts are still clear that flu vaccines don’t perform like the drug companies say they do.
The organization that did this review is The Cochrane Collaboration. It’s a group of over 10,000 volunteers in more than 90 countries who review the effects of health care interventions compiles data from research studies and tries to draw a conclusion based on the facts reported.
Here’s what they said. Take special note of the Warning that industry studies are biased in favor of vaccination, which, to my mind, invalidates all those studies.
We included 50 reports. Forty (59 sub-studies) were clinical trials of over 70,000 people. Eight were comparative non-RCTs (randomized controlled trials) and assessed serious harms. Two were reports of harms which could not be introduced in the data analysis. In the relatively uncommon circumstance of vaccine matching the viral circulating strain and high circulation, 4% of unvaccinated people versus 1% of vaccinated people developed influenza symptoms. The corresponding figures for poor vaccine matching were 2% and 1%. These differences were not likely to be due to chance. Vaccination had a modest effect on time off work and had no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates. Inactivated vaccines caused local harms and an estimated 1.6 additional cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome per million vaccinations. The harms evidence base is limited.
Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.
This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.
My advice? Take Vitamin D this winter to prevent the flu. On Wednesday December 15, 2010 at 7pm PST. I’ll be doing my second hour-long webinar with Dr. Lani Simpson. This one is specifically on Vitamin D. To attend this free seminar, just sign up at www.lanisimpson.com. For those with a time challenge, I will be putting the audio portion of both webinars on my website soon.
Carolyn Dean MD ND
The Doctor of the Future®
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