THE ANNUAL HEAD-SCRATCHER
EXPERTS CONTEMPLATE NEXT YEAR'S FLU SEASON
Baby even the losers.... get lucky sometimes. The late Tom Petty singing about the hopefulness of next year's flu vaccine in 1979's Even the Losers (Damn the Torpedoes)
Just yesterday the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report said that "Most (69%) influenza infections were caused by A(H3N2) viruses." They then said that vaccine effectiveness (VE) against this strain "was estimated to be 25%." Is this true? Firstly, if you click the previous link, you'll see that someone, whether intentionally or unintentionally, is wrong (VE is almost always exaggerated by the CDC before being quietly downgraded in the summer --- HERE). And secondly, even though Dr. L discussed the importance of targeting the correct strains, he failed to explain how difficult (impossible) it really is, because as I've shown you in the past, "matched years" (correctly guessing which three or four strains should be included in next year's vaccine that's being made this year) occur approximately once a decade. Not surprising considering there are literally thousands of variant strains of flu virus.
The CDC's Timothy Uyeki was then quoted about his opinion of antivirals --- the drugs many doctors recommend if you get the flu --- the Tamiflu that has been in such a shortage due to this year's panic. I'll not talk about what he said, but if you're interested in seeing just how badly you've been hoodwinked concerning this all-but-completely ineffective drug, take a look at THIS SHORT POST. As is is typical, there was the usual whining by government officials about not having enough of your hard-earned tax dollars for research ("this takes a lot more funding"). And as I often do with articles that can only be described as propaganda pieces, I headed directly to the comment section, where Dr. JP chimed in with his two cents.
"Correct that a flu vaccine is 100% ineffective if it is not taken. At present it seems to be 70-83% ineffective if it is taken. (that's 17-30% effective, right?) But the only way you know if a treatment or prophylactic is ineffective is if you get the condition you're trying to prevent. Wow -- 70-83 percent of people who get a flu shot get the flu anyway? That's a pretty useless vaccine. If you don't receive the treatment and you don't acquire the condition -- that's not ineffective, it is null data -- and who's going to report it anyway!"
Dr. JP went on to describe the science behind VE as "dodgy statistical manipulation". It is dodgy, considering that the director for the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, Dr. Michael Osterholm, recently discussed how inflated CDC VE stats really are. I quote, "The vaccine is, at best, around 10% effective on H3N2." The words "at best" mean that it's doubtful it's even 10% effective.
The CDC created a built-in excuse for the future VE downgrade that is sure to come, when they admitted that, "the findings in this report are subject to at least four limitations." Yes they are, and if people would simply read my posts on FLU VACCINES, they would understand that the "science" behind those limitations is as dodgy as the statistics themselves. What does the science show? Follow a few of these links to see just how crappy these vaccines really are, which is creating a huge black eye on the profession. Think about it this way; if the scientific and medical communities truly believed everything they adoringly tout concerning EVIDENCE-BASED MEDICINE, they would treat the flu like what it really is --- A BAD COLD.
Notice that I earlier mentioned the word panic. This was not an oversight nor was it hype. Governmental organizations and their partners in crime from the private sector (BIG PHARMA), purposeful create, aggressively cultivate, and then actively promote an environment of fear (panic) surrounding each and every flu season for one reason --- to sell more vaccines. The same can be said for antivirals such as TAMIFLU, which are themselves no better than about 10% effective. Helen Branswell's article for Thursday's edition of STAT (Three Quarters of People Who Got Flu Shot This Year Weren't Protected Against Most Common Strain) quoted CDC director, Dr. Anne Schuchat as saying, "We are a bit concerned that the performance of the vaccine right now might reduce interest in getting vaccinated in the future, but we have the other side that flu was just so bad so far this season, so many people have been sick and see how miserable it is."
But was this year's flu really that bad, and could it legitimately be described as "worse" than other recent seasons? Or, was the media --- a group who is collectively and constantly looking for some "DIRTY LAUNDRY" --- selling fear and panic in order to juice their ratings? You be the judge after listening to Branswell quote from this week's CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (I am cherry-picking a bit here).
"The H3N2 vaccine effectiveness in children 6 months of age to 8 years old was 51 percent. The text of the report did not point out that in children aged 9 to 17, there appeared to be no protection at all against H3N2 viruses. So far this season 63 children have died from flu. While tragic, that number is actually low in comparison with other recent seasons. In older adults, the H3N2 vaccine performance was much less impressive. Seniors aged 65 and older saw their risk of needing medical care for flu cut by 17 percent, and in adults 50 to 64 — an age group with an unusually high hospitalization rate this winter — the H3N2 component’s effectiveness was 10 percent. Those numbers correspond to what was seen last year in those age groups in the U.S. and also to vaccine effectiveness estimates from Canada that were released earlier this month."
How can you tell this is statistical rubbish? Ask yourself how in the world Vaccine Effectiveness could be over 50% for children 8 and under, but 0% for those ages 9-17? This stat alone shows you how bogus the numbers are. And as for the elderly, the latest Cochrane Review on flu vaccines and the elderly from last week (HERE) showed exactly what the last Cochrane Review for flu vaccines and the elderly showed several years ago; that VE hovers in the nether regions for this age group. That's not me folks, that's Cochrane; the most prestigious and respected producer of medical meta-analytics on the planet (HERE). The CDC is MANIPULATING THE DATA (playing statistical games) to try and keep a lid on just how bad things really are with flu vaccines (VE).
Allow me to show you an example of data manipulation concerning the flu vaccine that I stole from the previous link. "A few days ago I was discussing the brand new Cochrane Review concerning flu shots in healthy adults with my brother (AN ER DOCTOR who has never been a fan of the shots). He brought up an interesting point. Even though the data of hundreds of studies since 1965, containing over 80,000 subjects, was crunched to show that the vaccine lowers a healthy adult's chance of contracting flu from 2% to 1% (a whopping 1 percentage point), he rightly predicted that industry would claim that the unvaccinated group had 100% more flu than the vaccinated group (after all, two is 100% greater than one)."
Here's another example of data manipulation concerning flu vaccines that you undoubtedly didn't hear about from the mainstream press. Enter Dr. De Serres. Dr. Gaston De Serres biography for CIRN (the Canadian Immunization Research Network) reads thusly. "Dr. De Serres is a medical epidemiologist at the Institute National de Santé Publique du Québec and a professor of Epidemiology at the Faculty of Medicine at Laval University. Dr. De Serres works in the area of control and prevention of infectious disease with a focus on vaccine-preventable diseases and respiratory infections, vaccine effectiveness and vaccine safety." His specialty is flu vaccine. I mention Dr. De Serres only because he was the lead author for a study (Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Workers: Critical Analysis of the Evidence for Patient Benefit Underpinning Policies of Enforcement) published in last January's issue of PLoS One. Listen to the conclusions of his team of a dozen medical researchers from facilities around the world.
"Annual influenza vaccination for health care workers (HCWs) is widely endorsed and increasingly enforced on the basis that it will reduce influenza-associated morbidity and mortality in patients. Two pivotal systematic reviews and meta-analyses have been published summarizing and pooling these four RCT [studies] findings, but reached different conclusions about the strength of that evidence. Whereas the review conducted by investigators of the CDC characterized the overall quality of evidence as moderate, the Cochrane review concluded that the evidence was insufficient to support HCW influenza vaccination as an approach to reduce patient risk. Such uncertainty in the quality of the evidence warrants closer examination. This is particularly important given that compulsory or coercive (e.g. vaccinate-or-mask) policies have been extrapolated in some jurisdictions to not only include HCWs providing direct patient care, but also to include all staff in acute-care hospitals and other healthcare settings."
After making all of their calculations with extremely generous statistics (among other concessions, De Serres' team assumed a flu vaccine VE of 60% --- significantly better than what's seen in a typical year), they concluded that "Through this detailed critique and quantification of the evidence, policies of enforced influenza vaccination of HCWs to reduce patient risk lack a sound empirical basis. While HCWs have an ethical and professional duty not to place their patients at increased risk, so also have advocates for compulsory vaccination a duty to ensure that the evidence they cite is valid and reliable."
Because the evidence for MANDATORY FLU VACCINES FOR HEALTHCARE WORKERS is so "unreliable" (some HCW's understand this, therefore there is a significant segment of them who do not want the shots), De Serre's team concluded that the only viable way to protect patients is for all healthcare workers to wear a mask, not just those who declined to be immunized. "A coherent prevention policy to reduce risk to patients to the extent possible would dictate the wearing of masks by all HCWs, vaccinated or unvaccinated, for the duration of the winter respiratory season. We are unaware of such extreme policies anywhere to date." So, the only thing that might help stop the spread of flu in institutional settings isn't even being done.
This is an emotional, hot-button issue. Make sure to look at it logically, and not based on the fear purposefully created by people who either don't understand the evidence (those who are currently 'drinking the koolaid') or who completely understand it and realize just how crappy it really is. BTW, the second group is far scarier than the first.
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Hopefully I'm about done with flu season posts for awhile. It's just that misinformation about the flu vaccine needs to be refuted by common sense, truth, logic, and real science. If you are tired of the propaganda and want to reach others with this message, the easiest way to reach them is by liking, sharing, or following on FACEBOOK.