• Tue, Nov 6 2012

Someone Other Than Jenny McCarthy Is Telling You To Skip Your Kid’s Flu Shot This Year

We all know those moms who watched Jenny McCarthy break down on Oprah and describe her son receive a vaccination which she ultimately believed was the beginning of his autism diagnosis.  These mothers, transfixed by McCarthy’s celebrity story, went on to demand modified immunization schedules and opted out of some vaccinations altogether.  Now there is someone to support vaccination skepticism who has more training than a weepy ex-playmate.

Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, concludes in his Influenza Research and Surveillance study that the flu vaccination is not as effective as those in the public health sector may have lead you to believe.

“We have overpromoted and overhyped this vaccine,” said Dr. Osterholm. “It does not protect as promoted. It’s all a sales job: it’s all public relations.”

Dr. Osterholm knows he is committing what will be construed as a crime against the public health industry but attempts to explain his change of opinion.

“I’m an insider,” Dr. Osterholm said. “Until we started this project, I was one of the people out there heavily promoting influenza vaccine use. It was only with this study that I looked and said, ‘What are we doing?’

Specifically, Dr. Osterholm and his team discovered “a recurring error in influenza vaccine studies that led to an exaggeration of the vaccine’s effectiveness.”

And he isn’t the only one undermining the flu vaccine.  In 2010 an international network of experts called the The Cochrane Collaboration concluded that these “vaccines appear to have no effect on hospital admissions, transmission or rates of complications.”

During cold and flu season, public health officials urge everyone over 6 months of age to get their flu shot, but the Cochrane Collaboration found the effect on children to be bleak at best.

The review authors found that in children aged from two years, nasal spray vaccines made from weakened influenza viruses were better at preventing illness caused by the influenza virus than injected vaccines made from the killed virus. Neither type was particularly good at preventing ‘flu-like illness’ caused by other types of viruses. In children under the age of two, the efficacy of inactivated vaccine was similar to placebo.

No one wants to have their child get sick with the flu.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports the yearly death toll from of influenza since 1976 fluctuates between 3,000 and 49,000.  Everyone agrees the flu and flu-related illnesses put our children at risk. However there are other measures all parents should take to help prevent the spread of these germs. Even if you opt to get the flu shot, know that your job isn’t done when you leave the doctor’s office.

(photo: aslysun / Shutterstock)

You can reach this post's author, Carinn Jade, on twitter.
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  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Carmen-Finnigan/841528248 Carmen Finnigan

    Not that Cochrane report again. They went out their way to spin the abstract. It is not the greatest vaccine on the planet, but even if it partial works that is still better than nothing. At least until we get the universal flu vaccine.

  • Ellen

    “…nasal spray vaccines made from weakened influenza viruses were better at preventing illness caused by the influenza virus than injected vaccines made from the killed virus. Neither type was particularly good at preventing ‘flu-like illness’ caused by other types of viruses.”
    I am a researcher and it is super annoying when people misread research. This statement says that the nasal spray vaccine is more effective than the injectable in preventing flu. It also says that the FLU vaccine does not protect against NON-FLU viruses very well. The last part is obvious given the name of the vaccine.
    Skipping vaccines is also dangerous – not just for your kid but for mine. Herd immunity is destroyed when groups of people avoid vaccinations leading to outbreaks of disease in the larger population, such as the recent Whooping Cough outbreak in the US. http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2012-07-20/news/sns-rt-us-usa-whoopingcoughbre86j05u-20120719_1_pertussis-vaccine-pertussis-bacteria-whooping-cough

    Autism is a genetic disorder with a cascade of genes being triggered by a still unknown stimulus or stimuli. Vaccinating children does not CAUSE autism. If it did we would all be autistic.

    • Not That Rebecca

      “Vaccinating children does not CAUSE autism. If it did we would all be autistic.”
      What do you research, that you can make such an asinine statement?
      “Smoking does not CAUSE cancer. If it did all smokers would have cancer.” FAIL.

      The solution to bad science and stupid reasoning is not worse science and stupider reasoning.

  • chickadee

    Um, yes. A flu-like illness is NOT the flu. Additionally, I would say that there is a vast difference between the importance of getting a flu shot versus the importance of getting the major vaccines…you shouldn’t really try to draw a comparison there.

  • Fabel

    Not sure why flu shots are being tied in with the larger vaccine debate here– advocating against or questioning the effectiveness of yearly flu shots is NOT the same thing as skipping important vaccinations against more serious illness.

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  • Mama

    Glad to see the author being called out here. I’m with the other commenters on this. Get your vaccines!

  • Ipsedixit010

    It’s a real stretch to link the two, but that’s pretty normal for Mommyish. If there a word that’s similar they’ll link the two together. Also, they don’t read the studies. Usually they just word
    grab from another site or press release and add their own opinion to it, however uninformed it is.

    The way it reads, you would think Dr. Osterholm is adding to the vaccine skepticism. He’s not. In fact, in the article she pulls from, he says:

    “He still considers himself a “a pro-vaccine guy,” Dr. Osterholm said.”

    Isn’t that a convenient piece to leave out? Then again, she wouldn’t be able to write a sensational article if it wasn’t in there.

    I think if a child got sick with Measles, Mumps, Polio, Pertussis, etc parents be praying they just had the flu.

  • AugustW

    I’m a big believer in herd immunity. I was a very sick child for a long time, and there were some vaccines that they had to delay giving me because of it. I was lucky that the people around me were vaccined, because my immune system was almost non-existant for years.
    Now, I have a 2 year old who loves to be around her grandfather, who in turn is going through chemo. He can’t have the flu shots, but he also can’t have the flu without possibly fatal consequenses.
    So yeah, we vaccine. We follow the schedule, because you never know if that kid you pass in the grocery store has a life-threatening illness that prevents them from vaccinating right away.

  • Justme

    My mother’s sister contracted measles at a young age which then went to her brain. She spent 23 years in a coma before passing away at the age of 28, a year before I was born.

    Please. Get your children vaccinated. Spread them out if you feel more comfortable, but don’t ignore them altogether.

  • lea

    This article is irresponsible and sensationalist!

    Firstly, it has been shown time and again that there is NO link between autism and MMR vaccination. Levels of autism are the same in countries that do not routinely vaccinate children as they are in countries that do.

    Secondly, questioning the use of a single vaccine does NOT equal vaccination skepticism. I think that Dr Osterholm would be horrified to learn that you had suggested he is in support of the anti-vaxxers.

    We want our experts to be able to go where the evidence takes them, to find out what is effective and safe and what isn’t. But if every time a health professional or researcher speaks of doubts about a particular vaccine they get lumped in with the anti-vax campaigners, they’ll start to question the value in speaking up. And that makes none of us safer. So quit it!

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