Tag: flu myths

Is This Year’s Flu Vaccine Working?

Breaking News – Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness have now been released (see below)

Flu season is just getting started, but I’m sure that you have already heard folks rating how well this year’s flu shots are working.

Are flu vaccines working well?
Are flu vaccines working well?

Of course, if you had a flu shot and have already gotten the flu, then you’re gonna think the flu shot isn’t working very well at all.

And if you are vaccinated and protected and have avoided the flu, then it is working so far, right?

Is This Year’s Flu Vaccine Working?

While we won’t know how well this year’s flu vaccine is working until the CDC releases the preliminary estimates on flu vaccine effectiveness, there are some good signs already.

  1. The majority of the influenza viruses collected from the United States so far have been “characterized antigenically and genetically as being similar to the cell-grown reference viruses representing the 2018–2019 Northern Hemisphere influenza vaccine viruses.”
  2. The most frequently identified influenza virus type reported by public health laboratories was influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 virus.

Remember, to be effective, you want the flu vaccine to match the strains of flu virus that are circulating in the community. A mismatch in flu virus strain or antigenic drifting leads to lower flu vaccine effectiveness (VE).

Remember the 2004-05 flu season? That was the year that because of a drifted A(H3N2) virus, “only 5% of viruses from study participants were well matched to vaccine strains.” And the flu vaccine wasn’t very effective at all.

Still, even when the flu vaccine matches circulating strains, in general, as we have certainly seen, “flu vaccines provide better protection against influenza B or influenza A (H1N1) viruses than against influenza A (H3N2) viruses.”

YearFlu Virus StrainVE
2004-05A(H3N2)10
2005-06A(H3N2)21
2006-07A(H1N1)52
2007-08A(H3N2)37
2008-09A(H1N1)41
2009-10A(H1N1)pdm0956
2010-11A(H3N2)60
2011-12A(H3N2)47
2012-13A(H3N2)49
2013-14A(H1N1)pdm0952
2014-15A(H3N2)19
2015-16A(H1N1)pdm0948
2016-17A(H3N2)40
2017-18A(H3N2)40
2018-19A(H1N1)pdm0947

So if you had to guess, you could probably say that this year’s flu vaccine is going to be at least 50% effective.

So just as good as flipping a coin? Not exactly.

There are a lot of benefits to getting a flu shot besides avoiding the flu, like avoiding severe flu, hospitalization, and death.

And since flu vaccines are safe and flu can be a life-threatening disease, even in those without any medical problems, wouldn’t you take any chance you could to reduce your child’s chances of getting sick?

When will we know how well this year’s flu vaccine is really working?

The CDC typically releases the first preliminary flu vaccine effectiveness report of the season in February.

Not that you should wait! Flu season is well underway and this is a great time to get a flu vaccine and get protected for the rest of flu season.

Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness

On schedule, the CDC has released this year’s Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness.

During this period, overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against all influenza virus infection associated with medically attended ARI was 47% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 34%–57%). For children aged 6 months–17 years, overall vaccine effectiveness was 61% (44%–73%).

Interim Estimates of 2018–19 Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness — United States, February 2019

That’s certainly better than we have seen in recent years.

More on the Effectiveness of This Year’s Flu Vaccine

Updated February 15, 2019

Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

Have you heard the latest flu vaccine bombshell from anti-vaccine folks?

Like all other anti-vaccine bombshells, this one is a dud.
Like all other anti-vaccine bombshells, this one is a dud.

They think that they have evidence that flu vaccines spread the flu.

Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

The latest anti-vaccine bombshell comes from Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, and is posted among a bunch of other articles that will have you scratching your head.

Did you know that Amazon’s Alexa is a ‘demon device,’ Apple is banning Christian apps in a war on Christianity, and that CHAOS is coming in the new year?

Not surprisingly, the “latest” anti-vaccine bombshell was a dud, even though it continues to be shared on the majority of anti-vaccine websites and Facebook groups.

What’s the problem?

Anti-vaccine folks are simply misinterpreting a small study, Infectious virus in exhaled breath of symptomatic seasonal influenza cases from a college community, from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Of course, that the study wasn’t a great anti-vaccine bombshell is easy to see if you actually read it.

Although the study did find an association between vaccination and greater fine-aerosol shedding for influenza A infections, if the flu vaccine really increases your risk for spreading the flu, then:

  • why wasn’t getting a flu vaccine associated with coarse-aerosol or nasopharyngeal shedding?
  • why wasn’t the association of vaccination and shedding significant for influenza B infections?

The answer is that because it was a small study, the finding about vaccination and shedding likely wasn’t really significant.

It wasn’t even what they were looking at in the study, which was instead trying to prove that you don’t have to cough and sneeze to spread the flu – simply breathing can spread infectious flu particles.

“Unvaccinated people are more likely to get the flu and transmit it to other people because they shed lots of virus into the nasal secretions into the air.”

Donald K. Milton

And as the authors of the study clarified, folks who aren’t sick because they got vaccinated and didn’t get the flu won’t shed and won’t get anyone else sick.

If anything, the study confirms just how hard it is to avoid folks sick with the flu and why everyone should get a flu vaccine each year.

And how hard it is to avoid anti-vaccine misinformation

After all, anti-vaccine folks could have done a little digging and found that a previous study about influenza virus aerosols, Exposure to Influenza Virus Aerosols During Routine Patient Care, didn’t find a statistically significant difference among folks who got a flu vaccine and how much flu virus they shed (emitters vs non-emitters). In fact, they found that a small percentage of these patients were superemitters, who “exceeded average influenza virus aerosol concentrations by multiple times.”

What’s that mean?

It’s just another reason to get vaccinated and protected. While you don’t want to be exposed to a superemitter and get the flu, you also don’t want to get the flu and become a superemitter, getting lots of other people sick.

More on Does Getting a Flu Vaccine Increase Your Risk of Spreading the Flu or Getting Others Sick?

Do the FDA and CDC Tell People to Exaggerate Disease Statistics?

Have you heard that the FDA and CDC tell people to exaggerate disease statistics, especially morbidity and mortality statistics of vaccine-preventable diseases?

Why would they do that?

Anti-vaccine folks think that they do it to scare folks into getting vaccinated and protected. While it’s just anti-vaccine propaganda, this is actually one anti-vaccine myth that I wish were true, because then it might mean that 185 kids didn’t die in last year’s flu season.

Do the FDA and CDC Tell People to Exaggerate Disease Statistics?

Of course, it’s not true.

The CDC does provide training material to help get more people vaccinated and protected, but they have never say to lie about or exaggerate disease statistics.

It's no secret that more people look to get vaccinated during a severe flu season.
It’s no secret that more people look to get vaccinated during a severe flu season.

The purpose of these training materials is to reinforce that it is very important to educate people about the dangers of getting the flu, but that it is also very important to not go too far and scare them.

Be concerned enough so that you get vaccinated, but don't worry too much...
Be concerned enough so that you get vaccinated, but don’t worry too much…

But don’t you have to exaggerate things to get people concerned enough to get vaccinated?

Uh, not if you understand what happens in a typical flu season, and definitely not if you understand what can happen in a very severe flu season.

Do you know how many kids, mostly unvaccinated and many otherwise healthy, die during a typical flu season. If you did, and you understood that the flu vaccines are safe, then you wouldn’t think of skipping it.

Problems arise because people get mixed messages from anti-vaccine folks, who tell them that flu vaccines are dangerous and that they can stay healthy and keep the flu away by taking elderberry syrup each day. Or that they can cure their flu symptoms with some Oscillococcinum.

They can’t and it won’t.

Get your family vaccinated and protected against the flu.

There’s no playbook that experts are using to try and trick you into getting vaccinated. Just folks trying to increase awareness, so that everyone understands that vaccines are safe and necessary, and they ignore anti-vaccine propaganda.

More on Promoting Vaccines

I’m Not Anti-Vaccine, I Just Don’t Believe in Flu Shots

Do you know any of these folks?

“I’m not anti-vaccine, I just don’t believe in flu shots.”

They likely get all other available vaccines for themselves and their kids, but for some reason, they skip the flu shot each year.

I’m Not Anti-Vaccine, I Just Don’t Believe in Flu Shots

Are they just anti-flu vaccine? Is that a thing?

Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”
Gloria Copeland told her followers that they didn’t need flu vaccinations because Jesus already “redeemed us from the curse of the flu.”

Why don’t they “believe” in flu shots?

Typical answers you might get, if you ask, include:

  • I never get the flu – since about 5 to 20% of people get the flu each year, it is certainly possible that you never get the flu, especially if you aren’t around many other people that could spread the flu virus to you. But unless you live and work in a bubble, there is a good chance that you will eventually be exposed to someone with the flu, might catch the flu yourself, and will spread it to someone else.
  • I only get sick when I get a flu shot flu shots are inactivated and can’t actually give you the flu. Even the live virus nasal mist flu vaccine won’t cause you to have the flu. While flu vaccines can cause mild flu side effects, if you get sick after after a flu shot, it could be that you have another respiratory virus, your flu vaccine didn’t have time to work, or that it wasn’t effective.
  • I don’t need a flu shotyou do, if you want to reduce  your chances of getting the flu and having serious complications from a flu infection, which can affect anyone.
  • I got a flu shot last year – you need a flu vaccine each year
  • Flu vaccines don’t work – flu vaccines aren’t perfect, but they can reduce your risk of catching the flu and avoiding serious complications, even if you do get sick.
  • Flu shots are too expensive – most insurance plans cover the costs of flu vaccines, but  if you don’t have insurance, it is sometimes possible to find free flu shots at a local health clinic, or you could get a flu shot for $24 at Walmart with a GoodRx coupon.
  • I don’t have time to get a flu shot – do you have time to get sick with the flu? Many doctors now offer regular flu clinics that make it convenient to just come in and get a flu vaccine or if that isn’t possible, you can likely get a flu vaccine at a nearby pharmacy.
  • Someone on the Internet told me to never get a flu shot because they are poison – if you are avoiding a flu vaccine because you are worried about thimerosal, miscarriages, that they contain a vaginal spermicide, or other misinformation, then you likely aren’t just anti-flu vaccine…
  • Gloria Copeland told me I didn’t need one – Jesus didn’t give us a flu shot and doesn’t want you to die with the flu, or measles.

Stop making excuses, none of which hold water.

Get your flu vaccine, preferably before flu season starts and you start seeing flu activity in your area.

More on Being Anti-Flu Vaccine

Is the La Leche League Anti-Vaccine?

Why would anyone think that the La Leche League, an organization who’s mission is to support breastfeeding, might be against vaccines?

“Many parents have questions about the compatibility of vaccines and breastfeeding. Your healthcare provider can address any questions that come up for you.”

la leche league international on Vaccines

They certainly don’t make any strong statements supporting vaccines…

“The LLLI Health Advisory Council suggests families discuss the pros and cons of influenza vaccines with their health care practitioners.”

la leche league international on Influenza

The cons of influenza vaccines?

What are those exactly? That the protection babies get from their mother’s pregnancy flu shot doesn’t last until they go to college?

What’s the greatest evidence that they might not support vaccines? I mean, besides anti-vaccine La Leache League leaders who actively say that they are against vaccines?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures  on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.
What exactly will Bob Sears be talking about during his two lectures on vaccines at this upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference?

Bob Sears is giving two lectures on vaccines at an upcoming La Leche League breastfeeding conference.

Will he really discuss the benefits of vaccines for pregnant and post-partum mothers and their families?

“Dr. Bob Sears, a renowned Dana Point pediatrician who has been sought out by parents who wish to opt out of the state’s mandatory vaccine requirements, has been placed on probation for 35 months by the Medical Board of California.”

Dr. Bob Sears, renowned vaccine skeptic, placed on probation for exempting child from all vaccinations

And considering that he nearly lost his medical license over giving an improper vaccine exemption, what can we really expect from his talk on California’s vaccine law?

“Remember that La Leche League is exclusively focused on breastfeeding support and has no stance on vaccinations.”

La Leche League USA

No stance on vaccinations?

Actually, with bringing Dr. Bob to their conference, it seems like they made a very clear stance…

“Nursing also allows your baby to give germs to you so that your immune system can respond and can synthesize antibodies! This means that if your baby has come in contact with something which you have not, (s)he will pass these germs to you at the next nursing; during that feeding, your body will start to manufacture antibodies for that particular germ. By the time the next feeding arrives, your entire immune system will be working to provide immunities for you and your baby. If you are exposed to any bacteria or viruses, your body will be making antibodies against them and these will be in your milk.”

Can Breastfeeding Prevent Illnesses?

And they have also done a good job of making it sound like breastfeeding infants don’t need vaccines.

They do!

While breastfeeding is great, it is not a substitute for getting vaccinated. In fact, antibodies in breast milk will not protect a baby against most vaccine-preventable diseases.

If the La Leche League truly wants to support what’s best for kids, they should move away from pushing non-evidence based therapies, especially craniosacral therapy and referrals to chiropractors for breastfeeding problems, and they should take a stand supporting vaccines.

The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.
The La Leche League is on this list of other organizations that speak out against vaccines.

Then maybe they wouldn’t appear on any lists from the NVIC.

More on Vaccines and the La Leche League

Three Reasons to Skip a Flu Shot This Year

We sometimes hear that folks are going to skip their yearly flu vaccine because they don’t believe in flu shots, they never get sick, or they think that flu shots don’t work or are dangerous.

Some nurses and doctors are refusing to get a flu shot and have to wear masks at work.
Some nurses and doctors are refusing to get a flu shot and have to wear masks at work.

Of course, none of those are good reasons.

Three Reasons to Skip a Flu Shot This Year

Flu vaccines are safe and have many benefits, even if they aren’t any where near 100% effective.

So are there any legitimate reasons to skip a flu shot?

Of course.

In fact, three very good reasons to skip a flu shot include:

  1. being younger than 6 months of age
  2. having a severe allergic reaction (e.g., anaphylaxis) after a previous dose of flu vaccine or to any component of the flu vaccine
  3. and, uh…

Actually, although folks might have many of bad excuses, there are only two good reasons to skip a flu shot…

So, infants who aren’t old enough to be vaccinated yet, and anyone who has had a life-threatening reaction to a previous dose.

Additional precautions, but not true contraindications, do including having had Guillain-Barré syndrome <6 weeks after a previous dose of influenza vaccine and having a moderate or severe acute illness with or without fever when you are planning to get vaccinated.

What about egg allergies?

Even if you have had a severe reaction to eggs, you can still get a flu shot. Just get it get it in an inpatient or outpatient medical setting (such as a hospital, clinic, health department, or physician’s office), so that you can be supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.

Bad Reasons to Skip a Flu Shot

Are you scared of shots? Flumist is back.

Are you skipping the flu shot because you never get sick? How lucky do you feel this year? Don’t continue to gamble that you won’t get the flu. Increase your chances of staying well by getting a flu shot, the best way to avoid the flu.

There aren’t any natural alternatives that work better, no matter how hard you want to believe that going to a chiropractor, using essential oils, or homeopathic remedies might be helpful.

The flu vaccine doesn’t weaken your immune system.

There are no hidden or harmful ingredients in flu vaccines.

The flu vaccine is not going to give you the flu.

And the flu is definitely not a mild disease! There were 176 pediatric flu deaths last flu season, and as in most years, most were unvaccinated.

Don’t wait. Get your flu shot.

More on Flu Vaccine Contraindications

Why Do You Need to Get a Flu Vaccine Each Year?

A yearly flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu.

But why do you need to get a flu vaccine each and every year?

Why Do You Need to Get a Flu Vaccine Each Year?

Hopefully we will one day have a universal flu vaccine that covers all flu strains and offers longer lasting protection.

Most folks know we don’t have that flu vaccine yet…

“A flu vaccine is needed every season for two reasons. First, the body’s immune response from vaccination declines over time, so an annual vaccine is needed for optimal protection. Second, because flu viruses are constantly changing, the formulation of the flu vaccine is reviewed each year and updated as needed to keep up with changing flu viruses. For the best protection, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated annually.”

CDC on Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine

So because the protection from the flu vaccine wanes or wears off relatively quickly, even if the flu vaccine strains don’t change from one year to the next, you should get a new flu vaccine.

How long does the protection from the flu vaccine last?

“An analysis from the 2011–12 through 2013–14 seasons noted protection ranging from 54% to 67% during days 0 through 180 postvaccination.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—United States, 2018–19 Influenza Season

The flu vaccines takes about two weeks to become effective and should then last for at least six months – long enough to get  you through the average flu season.

“A number of observational studies and a post hoc analysis from a randomized controlled trial have reported decreases in vaccine effectiveness (VE) within a single influenza season, with increasing time postvaccination. Waning effects have not been observed consistently across age groups, virus subtypes, and seasons; and observed declines in protection could be at least in part attributable to bias, unmeasured confounding, or the late season emergence of antigenic drift variants that are less well-matched to the vaccine strain. Some studies suggest this occurs to a greater degree with A(H3N2) viruses than with A(H1N1) or B viruses . This effect might also vary with recipient age; in some studies waning was more pronounced among older adults and younger children. Rates of decline in VE have also varied.”

Prevention and Control of Seasonal Influenza with Vaccines: Recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices—United States, 2018–19 Influenza Season

That means it should last past the peak of the average flu season, which is typically between December and March.

And in most young, healthy people, the protection likely lasts even longer.

Make sure you are vaccinated well before flu season starts.
Make sure you are vaccinated well before flu season peaks, which since 1982 has occurred as early as October and as late as March, but is most common in February.

Still, there is some concern that the protection from the flu vaccine can wear off during a flu season, especially if you are very young, very old, or have chronic medical problems, and you get your flu vaccine early and you get exposed late – in April or May.

Of course, that’s not a good reason to delay getting a flu vaccine though, as waiting too long might leave you unprotected if flu peaks early, in October or November.

What to Know About Why You Need the Flu Vaccine Every Year

Since the flu vaccine strains can change and protection doesn’t last from season to season, get a flu vaccine each year. It’s the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu.

More on Why You Need the Flu Vaccine Every Year