Perhaps you declined to get a flu shot back in October, like I did. (Though, it wasn’t easy. At my doctor’s office, I had to tell four different people “no thanks!”)
But some people didn’t have that choice. In fact, if you work in a healthcare setting in Colorado, Rhode Island, or Ohio, the government probably made you get the flu vaccine. They claim it protects patients. Especially older patients.
But that’s a bold-faced lie.
No data whatsoever supports this claim.
In fact, last year researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) analyzed data from four major clinical trials on the flu vaccine. They also looked at four observational studies that took place at long-term care facilities and hospitals.
They grouped all the results together and graded the quality of the evidence. Overall, they found vaccinating healthcare workers against the flu doesn’t stop elderly patients from dying of the flu. In fact, massive efforts to increase healthcare worker vaccinations reduced overall patient death as little as 0.8 percent!
And, remember–those results came from the CDC’s very own scientists! Ironically, the CDC remains the biggest promoter of the flu vaccine. In fact, even after the CDC published this pitiful data, they still had the gall to say they wanted 90 percent of healthcare workers to get the flu vaccine by 2020.
It’s mind numbing, really.
The CDC publishes clear data that shows ZERO benefit to vaccinating health workers. Yet they want 90 percent of them to do it. (And this goes against the will of many workers.) What could the CDC possibly say to justify this foolish policy?
Believe it or not, the CDC says the vaccine is “all” they have available. So everyone might as well get it anyway. Despite the lack of evidence. Despite the costs. And despite the known risks!
Okay, so maybe that backward reasoning is enough for someone who still think the vaccine will actually prevent the flu. (But remember, a recent review found that we must vaccinate up to 100 people to prevent the virus in just one other person! Based on this evidence, influenza doesn’t even qualify to as a “vaccine-preventable disease.” Plus, another review found that the actual influenza virus causes just 7 percent of the reported cases of the “flu.” Something entirely different causes the other 93 percent of cases!)
But how can the CDC’s “it’s-all-we-got” argument justify the government’s vaccine mandates in places like in Colorado, Rhode Island, and Ohio?
Maybe the CDC hasn’t heard about the benefits of washing your hands with regular soap and water. It actually works! (Which is why healthcare workers, who know how to read the scientific evidence, should know enough to wash their hands of the CDC’s recommendations?)
And you should too–both literally and figuratively. Even if your employer forced you to get the flu vaccine, washing your hands is still the best thing you can do to avoid the flu.
Always on the side of science,
Marc S. Micozzi, M.D., Ph.D.
“Effect of Influenza Vaccination of Healthcare Personnel on Morbidity and Mortality Among Patients: Systematic Review and Grading of Evidence,” Clin. Infect. Dis.; published online September 17, 2013
“Influenza vaccination for healthcare workers who care for people aged 60 or older living in long-term care institutions,” Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013; 7
“Analysis finds limited evidence for HCW flu vaccination” University of Minnesota Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (www.cidrap.umn.edu), 9/19/2013
“Required Flu Vaccines for Healthcare Workers Won’t Protect Patients,” U.S. News and World Report (www.usnews.com) 2/4/2013
Mandatory flu shots opposed by some health care workers,” USA Today (www.usatoday.com) 1/16/2013