A few weeks ago, I was making chicken gumbo (my version of the proverbial chicken soup) for lunch on a raw, winter’s day. The TV was on in the background and I completely stopped what was doing when I heard a report about the flu vaccine on our local New England Cable News (NECN).
The report covered ineffectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine. In fact, it’ll protect only 10 out of every 100 people who get it.
But doctors say you should get it anyway!
If the vaccine clearly doesn’t work, why bother getting it?
They then proceeded to interview a clown in a white coat who said, “the baseline effectiveness of the flu vaccine is 40 percent to 60 percent.”
Those figures make the vaccine sound more sensible. But the doctor’s obscuring the facts. The term “baseline” refers to the vaccine’s best years and ignores the failures of the vaccine in more recent years.
Indeed, as I reported last month, the flu vaccine has — at best — an efficacy rate of about 50:50, according to an insider document I received from a congressional staffer.
But you’ll never know if you’re in the “lucky” half until it’s too late. So, you might as well flip a coin, skip the vaccine’s nasty side effects, and just practice good hygiene.
Mind you, this year’s vaccine seems doomed for complete and utter failure, as my local news station even admitted.
Fortunately, researchers with the University of Pennsylvania — my alma mater — have actually figured out why it has such poor efficacy.
(I learned to follow the science at Penn during the 1970s and 1980s. And I’m pleased to see they still follow the science there. CDC, doctors, nurses, and pharmacists everywhere, please take note.)
Chicken egg medium causes mutations
Manufacturers make flu vaccines with proteins purified from the outer layer of killed flu viruses. By exposing your immune system to these purified proteins, the vaccine should prime your immune system to recognize and attack the real virus as soon as it appears in your body.
Plus, as I’ve said before, the CDC must accurately predict which strain of the flu will be active in any given year.
Last year, the CDC did correctly predict that the H3N2 strain would be the predominant flu strain. So that issue wasn’t the problem.
The problem stems from how their vaccine is made…
Manufacturers grows the flu vaccines in chicken egg cells.
But the H3N2 strain doesn’t grow well in that environment. In fact, it causes H3N2 to mutate. And that mutation is then incorporated into the vaccine.
Last year’s mutation was big enough that it created a mismatch between the vaccine and the circulating H3N2 virus. As a result, last year’s vaccine was just 34 percent effective.
And it gets worse…
This year’s circulating flu virus has the same H3N2 strain as last year. And the CDC hasn’t fixed the vaccine. So, this looks to be another very difficult year.
The Penn researchers concluded that the CDC needs to stop using chicken eggs and find a new medium for growing and making the flu vaccine. But that approach would require vaccine companies to purchase new equipment to change the production process.
In my view, the CDC should move beyond the question of “what came first, the chicken or the egg.” They should stop scrambling with a predictably ineffective flu vaccine every year. And they should look to other approaches, beyond a vaccine, to help people combat the annual flu.
There’s another saying that, “to make an omelet, you need to break a few eggs.” Or, in this case, knock a few government public health bureaucrats on their noggins.
But it’s not likely to happen.
You can bet, the “yolk” will still be on you, the taxpayer, to keep shelling out billions to support this annual nonsense.
Amazingly, despite the clear results of their own data, even the enlightened Penn researchers still recommended going out and getting this useless vaccine. It boggles the mind!
So, now, I must part ways with my alma mater. I’m not drinking the mainstream medical Kool-Aid…
“Contemporary H3N2 influenza viruses have a glycosylation site that alters binding of antibodies elicited by egg-adapted vaccine strains,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, November 7, 2017.