EVER WONDER WHY THE FLU VACCINE IS SO INEFFECTIVE?
WONDER NO MORE
It's all a vicious cycle, where every year, the powers that be use large amounts of tax-payer dollars on campaigns warning us to prepare for the flu apocalypse because THIS YEAR IS GOING TO BE THE WORST FLU SEASON EVER. And then, when all is said and done, you read an article by some government official (usually buried in the back of the newspaper) saying that this year's flu vaccine turned out to be something like 13.3% effective (HERE). And now we finally (and supposedly) know why --- it's the eggs that the flu virus used to make the vaccines are grown in. The Scripps scientists opened their study with a revelation that should catch everyone's attention; "The effectiveness of the annual influenza vaccine has declined in recent years." According to these authors, it all has to do with the way that a certain mutation in the virus interacts with certain mutations in the egg protein. Listen to part of the news release from the Scripps Research Institute (How Flu Shot Manufacturing Forces Influenza to Mutate: Egg-Based Production Causes Virus to Target Bird Cells, Making Vaccine Less Effective)
"X-ray crystallography to show that—when grown in eggs—the H3N2 subtype mutates a key protein to better attach to receptors in bird cells. Specifically, there was a mutation called L194P on the virus’s hemagglutinin glycoprotein (HA). This mutation disrupts the region on the protein that is commonly recognized by our immune system. This means a vaccine containing the mutated version of the protein will not be able to trigger an effective immune response. This leaves the body without protection against circulating strains of H3N2. In fact, analysis shows that the current strain of H3N2 used in vaccines already contains this specific mutation L194P on HA. “Vaccine producers need to look at this mutation...."
Any time I get around flu vaccine research, my BS detector has a tendency of going off. Want to know what tripped the switch this time? Allow me to show you that this problem is almost as old as the hills. It's nothing new, and it sounds to me like it's yet another excuse for why efficacy for the various forms of flu vaccines for various populations (HERE, and HERE for example) is functionally zero (if you think I'm being too harsh, click the links).
Over 22 years ago, the August 1995 issue of the Journal of Virology published a study very similar to the one being discussed today called Selection of a Single Amino Acid Substitution in the Hemagglutinin Molecule by Chicken Eggs Can Render Influenza A Virus (H3) Candidate Vaccine Ineffective. The study essentially concluded that thanks to mutations, (which are extremely common), growing these viruses in mutated eggs should be ended. "Thus, it is recommended that in the selection of vaccine candidates, virus populations with the egg-adapted HA Lys-156 substitution be eliminated." Yes, I realize that this is a bit different mutation than the one we were discussing earlier, but the principles are the same. Said mutations caused a vaccine that was described with words such as "nonprotective," "poorly recognized," and that, "egg-grown HA Lys-156 variant induced an AFC profile vastly different from that elicited by the other two reassortant vaccines." With this being the case, why should be be surprised that almost a quarter century later, this latest PLoS study is saying things things similar?
"Despite the first commercial influenza vaccines being approved in the US more than 70 years ago, complete and broad protection from an influenza vaccine has remained out of reach. Furthermore, in the past decade, the effectiveness of the seasonal vaccine against H3N2 viruses has been particularly low. ...the vaccine effectiveness was estimated to be only 33% for H3N2 viruses. Studies have attributed this low effectiveness of the H3N2 vaccine to the egg-based production process. Although eggs provide a cost effective way to grow influenza virus, the abundance of avian-type receptors on the chorioallantoic membrane often results in selection of variants that increase binding to avian-type receptors, and reduce binding to human-type receptors. More importantly, these egg-adaptive substitutions on the HA have also been shown to impact antigenicity, leading to a decrease in vaccine effectiveness. As annual vaccination remains the major preventive measure against influenza virus, it may be beneficial to accelerate consideration of alternative approaches for influenza vaccine production to optimize the protective effectiveness of the vaccine."
You don't have to read very far between the lines to see just how bad this really is for the H3N2 part of the vaccine, all of which begs the question of just how common the H3N2 flu virus is concerning overall flu statistics? Listen to what Sino Biological said in their article titled Influenza Hemagglutinin (HA) subtypes and Flu Virus Strains. "The influenza virus is divided into three main types, Influenza A, Influenza B, and Influenza C, which are distinguished by differences in two major virus surface proteins. Influenza A virus is the most common flu virus infecting humans, animals, and birds. There are 16 different types of hemagglutinin A (HA) and 9 different types of NA, therefore, there are potentially 144 different subtypes of influenza A viruses. Among them, two subtypes of influenza A, H1N1 and H3N2, most commonly infect humans." In their entry, Wikipedia took this concept a step farther by saying that the, "H3N2 is increasingly abundant in seasonal influenza."
What do I come away from this with? One of my friends, a brilliant MD who not only practices, but teaches at a major university and leads an online study group of about 70 physicians, researchers, functional medicine specialists, nutritionists, experts in athletic performance, etc (I will not mention his name here), recently stated on the message board that there will never be a universal flu vaccine. This post explains why. With so many potential combinations of virus, as well as both the viruses and the growing medium (in this case eggs) showing constant genetic variations and mutations, one's immune system is rarely encountering the same virus in real life exposure that it encountered via immunization. And even when it does, efficacy is downright poor. For more information on the crappy nature of Flu Vaccines, including my piece called TWENTY REASONS YOU DON'T WANT A FLU SHOT, simply click the link.