Published March 26, 2017
My favorite late night television host of all time was David Letterman. He was on the air for 33 years,...
— William Wilberforce
It’s that time of the year again when drug companies, doctors, government officials and media conduct a national advertising campaign to sell flu shots to every American.1 2 3 You can’t pass by a pharmacy,4 enter a supermarket,5 shop in a “big box” store6 or catch a plane7 without seeing the “flu shots for sale” signs trolling for customers.
The pharmaceutical industry is cutting out the MD middleman and going straight for the gold in places where we shop for toothpaste, clothes and food.8 Even on the evening news, flu shot commercials are becoming as frequent as political campaign ads.
Up until the year 2000, flu shots were not recommended for everyone. Back in the 1990’s, doctors were telling seniors over age 65 and younger people with chronic illness to get vaccinated.9
Now, doctors at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) tell every man, woman and child over six months old they need an annual flu shot10 and it is okay for health care workers to be fired if they don’t get vaccinated every year.11 12 13 14
In the states of Connecticut and New Jersey, there are mandates in place that force parents to give their six-month old babies a flu vaccine or be banned from daycare.16 This, as state health department officials join with medical trade association lobbyists in many states to severely restrict or eliminate medical, religious and conscientious belief vaccine exemptions for all children.16 17
The product liability protection that Congress gave doctors and drug companies under the 1986 National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, which the U.S. Supreme Court expanded in 2011, has absolved vaccine manufacturers from accountability in civil court for vaccine injuries and deaths.18 To make matters worse, the public-private business partnership between government and the pharmaceutical industry that Congress created after Sept. 11, 200119 20 is paying big dividends for liability free drug companies and liability free doctors selling flu shots to more than 325 million Americans.
It doesn’t matter if 80 to 95 percent of all flu-like illness during the flu season is caused by other viruses and bacteria and not type A or B influenza strains contained in flu vaccines,21 22 or that the vaccines don’t prevent influenza most of the time. In December 2015, CDC officials publicly admitted that flu vaccines are only on average 50 to 60 percent effective at preventing lab confirmed influenza requiring medical care in most years.
In fact, a CDC analysis of flu vaccine effectiveness for the past decade—from 2005 to 2015—demonstrated that more than half the time, seasonal flu shots are less than 50 percent effective depending upon the age of the person who got vaccinated and what kind of vaccine was given. In the 2004-2005 flu season, the influenza vaccine failed to protect vaccinated persons 90 percent of the time and in the 2014-2015 season, it failed to prevent influenza about 80 percent of the time.23
The selling of influenza vaccine has a lot to do with selling big morbidity and mortality numbers. So how bad were those numbers in the late 20th century to justify government taking a “no exceptions” cradle to the grave approach to flu shots for every American in the 21st century?
The first experimental influenza vaccines were given to soldiers in World War II. It wasn’t until the 1957-58 and 1968-69 influenza pandemics that the vaccine was marketed to civilians.24 Between 1970 and 2000, the trivalent influenza vaccine containing two strains of type A influenza and one strain of type B influenza was primarily recommended for the elderly. That is because respiratory infections, especially with pneumonia complications, have always been a leading cause of death for people at the end of their life span.25
There was only one deadly influenza pandemic in the last 100 years that killed the young and healthy in great numbers and that was the 1918 Spanish Flu. It turns out that bacterial pneumonia is what killed most people, young or old, in the 1918 pandemic. Today, antibiotics would have prevented most of those deaths.26
But just how bad is seasonal influenza today?
The CDC has been telling the public for more than a decade that there are some 200,000 estimated hospitalizations and 36,000 estimated deaths from influenza in the U.S. every year.27
But are those figures accurate? Well, it all depends upon use of the word “estimate.” The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality reported that, in 2004, there were about 37,000 Americans hospitalized for either influenza or another illness in addition to influenza, and patients over age 85 were twice as likely to die.28
Now, 37,000 influenza hospitalizations is five times less than the 200,000 hospitalization figure the CDC uses. That is because what CDC employees did to come up with their influenza hospitalization “estimate” was to count a lot of people hospitalized between 1979 and 2001—not just with influenza but also with pneumonia, respiratory and circulatory illnesses—which they counted as probably associated with influenza.29 30
And they got away with it.
In 2003, CDC employees also used a convoluted statistical modeling scheme to “estimate” that 36,000 people die from influenza in the U.S. every year. Again, they counted not just influenza death cases but also threw in other respiratory, circulatory, cardiac and pulmonary deaths they thought might have been associated with influenza.31
And they got away with it.
The CDC does not require states to “report individual seasonal flu cases or deaths of people older than 18 years of age.”32
That’s right—the CDC is not actually asking for the information they need to accurately assess influenza morbidity and mortality in the U.S.
Doctors at the CDC quietly admit on their website that the “CDC does not know exactly how many people die from seasonal flu each year.”35 Having gotten that “universal” cradle to the grave flu shot recommendation firmly in place so states and employers could start mandating, they are backing away from the 36,000 influenza death figure. CDC now says that “only 8.5 percent of all pneumonia and influenza deaths and only 2.1 percent of all respiratory and circulatory deaths” are influenza related.
Even though the CDC admits that influenza deaths are not that common and that flu shots are a miserable failure most of the time,36 the effects of the CDC’s decade-long inflating of influenza morality using tax dollars to fund an advertising and marketing campaign for liability free influenza vaccine manufacturers has been a spectacular success. The global influenza vaccine market is currently worth more than $6 billion dollars and projected to be $10 billion dollars in 2022.37 The U.S. flu vaccine market is worth at least $1.6 billion dollars per year.38
While drug companies with no legal accountability are making big profits from government marketed and mandated influenza vaccines, when children and adults in America get hurt from dutifully rolling up their sleeves for that annual flu shot, most are left on their own to pick up the pieces of their lives and pay for it, too.39 With Big Pharma’s free pass on liability, federal government officials have been able to turn the federal vaccine injury compensation system (VICP) into a cruel joke.40
The big question is: How long are Americans going to tolerate being forced to buy and use a vaccine every single year, which carries a risk of injury or death and fails to work most of the time, to theoretically prevent an infection that most people recover from without complications?
1 Hip2Save. Get Your Flu Shot at CVS Pharmacy in Select Target Stores and Get a FREE $5 Target Gift Card! Aug. 23, 2016.
2 Tuttle B. How the Flu Shot Because the New Doorbuster Deal. Time Magazine Sept. 14, 2014.
3 Parker H. One View: ‘Tis the season for gratitude, gridion and flu shots. Reno Gazette-Journal Nov. 22, 2016.
4 Walgreens. All Walgreens Pharmacies and Healthcare Clinics Now Offering Flu Shots Daily. Press Release: Aug. 15, 2016.
5 Giant Food Stores. Flu Vaccine Now Available at Giant/Martin Pharmacies: Immunizations available for both adults and children; no cost with most insurance plans. Press Release: Sept. 7, 2016.
6 WTKR-TV. Walmart to offer free health check-ups, low cost flu shots on Oct. 15. WTKR Oct. 14, 2016.
7 Baskas H. Get Your Flu Shot at the Airport. USA Today Oct. 26, 2015.
8 Advisory Board. Why retailers are fighting to give you your flu shot: The annual vaccinations bring customers into the store. Sept. 18, 2014.
9 CDC. Prevention and Control of Influenza–Recommendations of the Immunization Practices Advisory Committee (ACIP). MMWR May 15, 1992; 41(RR-9).
10 CDC. Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices — United States, 2016–17 Influenza Season. MMWR Aug. 26, 2016; 65(5): 1-54.
11 Fisher B. Women, Vaccines & Bodily Integrity. NVIC Newsletter Jan. 24, 2016.
12 Devine DJ. Vaccines & Viruses: Nurses who refuse flu shots must wear masks. World Magazine Sept. 29, 2015.
13 Tuttle B. Workers Are Being Fired for Refusing to Get Flu Shots. Time Magazine Nov. 5, 2015.
14 CBS San Francisco. Daycare Workers Must Be Vaccinated Under New California Law. Oct. 13, 2015.
15 Immunization Action Coalition. States with Influenza Vaccine Mandates for Childcare. Mar. 9, 2016.
16 Richardson D. The Fallout from California SB277 – What Happens Next? NVIC Newsletter Aug. 5, 2015.
17 Fisher BL. Defending the Religious Exemption to Vaccination. NVIC Newsletter June 28, 2016.
18 NVIC. National Vaccine Information Center Cites “Betrayal” of Consumers by U.S. Supreme Court Giving Total Liability Shield to Big Pharma. Businesswire Feb. 23, 2011.
19 Fisher BL. Letter to Col. Robert P. Kadlec, M.D. (USAF, ret.), Staff Director, Subcommittee on Bioterrorism and Public Health Preparedness, U.S. Senate. Nov. 15, 2005.
20 Fisher BL. Here Comes the 21st Century Cures Act: Say Goodbye to Vaccine Safety Science. NVIC Newsletter July 21, 2015.
21 FDA. Vaccines & Related Biological Products Advisory Committee Meeting Transcript. VRBPAC Meeting Feb. 20, 2003.
22 CDC. Update: Influenza Activity – United States, October 4, 2015 – February 6, 2016. MMWR Feb. 19, 2016; 65(6): 146-153.
23 CDC. Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness 2005-2015. Dec. 18, 2015.
24 College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The History of Vaccines: Asian Influenza Pandemic (1957) and Vaccine for Hong Kong Influenza Pandemic (1968).
25 Rozzini R, Sabatini T, Trabucchi M. Is Pneumonia Still the Old Man’s Friend? Arch Intern Med 2003; 163(2): 1491-1492.
26 National Institutes of Health. Bacterial Pneumonia Caused Most Deaths in 1918 Influenza Pandemic. Press Release: Aug. 19, 2008.
27 Doshi P. Are US flu death figures more PR than science? BMJ 2005; 331(7529): 1412.
28 AHRQ. Influenza Most Deadly for the Very Elderly. Press Release Nov. 7, 2006.
29 CDC. Seasonal Influenza Associated Hospitalizations in the United States. May 26, 2016.
30 Thompson WW, Shay DK et al. Influenza Associated Hospitalizations in the United States. JAMA 2004; 242(11): 1333-1340.
31 Thompson WW, Shay DK et al. Mortality Associated with Influenza and Respiratory Synctial Virus in the United States. JAMA 2003; 289(2): 179-186.
32 CDC. Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: Questions and Answers. May 26, 2016.
33 NVIC. Flu Vaccine Reaction Leaves Former Nurse a Quadriplegic. NVIC Newsletter Oct. 31, 2011.
34 Schonberger LB, Bregman DJ et al. Guillain Barre Syndrome Following Vaccination in the National Influenza Immunization Program, United States, 1976-1977. Am J Epidemiol 1979; 110(20): 105-123.
35 CDC. Estimating Seasonal Influenza-Associated Deaths in the United States: Questions and Answers. May 26, 2016.
36 Fisher BL. CDC Admits Flu Shots Fail Half the Time. NVIC Newsletter Apr. 26, 2016.
37 Research and Markets. Global Influenza Vaccine Market Worth USD 10.2 Billion by 2022. BusinessWire Apr. 5, 2016.
38 Tirrell M. The $1.6 billion business of flu. CNBC Oct. 19, 2015.
39 Fleischer J. $3B program to help vaccine victims falls short on promises. WSB-TV Nov. 15, 2016.
40 Fisher BL. Vaccine Injury Compensation: Government’s Broken Social Contract with Parents. NVIC Newsletter Nov. 2, 2015.