With all of the bad news across the world regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, the one tiny bit of good news is the substantial drop in influenza incidence during the 2020-21 flu season. Despite the weird and unfounded myths from the anti-vaccine and COVID-19 denier crowds, there is no conspiracy that someone is hiding the flu numbers by boosting COVID-19 numbers.
The only reason why the influenza incidence has dropped precipitously is because of the public health strategies to contain COVID-19. That’s it – nothing deeper than that.
Professor Reiss writes extensively in law journals about the social and legal policies of vaccination. Additionally, Reiss is also a member of the Parent Advisory Board of Voices for Vaccines, a parent-led organization that supports and advocates for on-time vaccination and the reduction of vaccine-preventable disease. She is also a member of the Vaccines Working Group on Ethics and Policy.
On August 19, 2020, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health announced that the influenza vaccine will be required from all children “6 months of age or older who are attending Massachusetts child care, pre-school, kindergarten, K-12, and colleges and universities.”
The requirement was only for children attending in-person (not online) education and had a deadline of December 31, 2020. A lawsuit was filed against the mandate, apparently, according to the anti-vaccine organization Informed Consent Action Network (ICAN), funded by that organization, and brought by the law firm they habitually employ, Siri & Glimstad LLP (In 2019, ICAN paid the law firm $1,263,432 for “legal services” out of over $3.4 million the organization took in as income, according to their 990 filings).
After the Massachusetts Department of Public Health pushed off that deadline to February, they decided to withdraw the influenza vaccine mandate on January 15, 2021.
The Public Health Department explains in a letter:
Preliminary data show that this has been a mild flu season to date, presumably as people have received their seasonal flu vaccine and have been adhering to mask-wearing and social distancing due to COVID-19. Given the intensive Commonwealth-wide efforts regarding COVID-19 vaccination, DPH wants to alleviate the burden to obtain flu vaccination and focus on continuing our COVID -19 vaccination efforts. DPH continues to strongly recommend that everyone age six months and older receive their seasonal flu vaccine each year.
ICAN is celebrating this as a victory of their lawsuit. We do not know which other considerations went into the decision, and the lawsuit may have had an effect, if only by adding to the already full plate of the department during a pandemic.
But the reality is that given the jurisprudence on vaccine mandates, and given the deference most courts show public health authorities during a pandemic, if there were good grounds to insist on the mandate, the department would likely have held its grounds. A number of other factors likely fed into the decision, including, as pointed out, a relatively mild flu season (in part thanks to public health measures against COVID-19), Massachusetts stated desire to bring children back to in-person education, which may have led the department to seek to remove barriers, and the need to focus on the COVID-19 vaccine effort.
Plus, it is mid-January. The benefit of being distracted by a fight over an influenza mandate this late is probably less than the harm to other important efforts.
Recently, I have been discussing the flu vaccine and COVID-19 infections. First, I debunked anti-vaccine myths. Second, I explained that the seasonal flu vaccine might be helpful in improving outcomes for patients who contract the coronavirus.
However, at that time, I wanted to make it clear that:
Once again, I am not making any claim that the seasonal flu vaccine will prevent a coronavirus infection. It’s just about comorbidities, that is, other health conditions that increase one’s risk for dangerous outcomes from the disease.
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, anything that weakens the respiratory system could (and again, we don’t have solid information on the pathophysiology and comorbidities for the disease) lead to a worse course for the disease. And that would include a higher risk of mortality.
The flu vaccine can reduce the risk of one coronavirus comorbidity since the flu is a respiratory disease. So, the flu vaccine isn’t going to help reduce your risk of coronavirus infection, but it will reduce your risk of complications, including death, from COVID-19.
In addition, preventing the flu may help to reduce hospitalizations and ICU admissions, allowing for more capacity for patients who have contracted COVID-19.
But again, I assumed that the flu vaccine would have little effectiveness against SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. This seemed biologically plausible because, as opposed to what Donald Trump claims, the flu virus and coronavirus are vastly different organisms. The two viruses are actually in two different phyla, meaning that the influenza virus and coronavirus are as closely related as a human is to a lobster.
Since we’re entering the 2020-21 flu season, it’s time for the annual epic rant from Dr. Mark Crislip about flu vaccine deniers. No, Dr. Crislip does not write a new one each year, I just republish it every year, because it still makes me laugh. And each year I know there is someone out there who will also love re-reading it for fun. Or maybe it’s your first time.
This diatribe is about “Dumb Ass” healthcare workers who invent flu vaccine fallacies, tropes, and myths in an effort to justify their belief that the flu vaccine is dangerous, useless, or whatever else that hits their science-denying brain.
Dr. Crislip’s humorous compilation of these flu vaccine myths, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, describes the different types of flu vaccine deniers among healthcare worker Dumb Asses.
Of course, flu vaccine deniers aren’t just healthcare workers. I’m sure you know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who are flu vaccine deniers. And they rely on the same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers.
18 – 26 million of those had a medical visit because of the flu
410 – 740 thousand of those had to be hospitalized as an inpatient
Finally, 24,000 – 62,000 died
Worldwide, it is estimated that there will be approximately 290-650 thousand deaths.
We are getting started with this new flu season, hopefully by wearing masks and social distancing, which along with the flu vaccine might make this an “easy” year for the flu. Except, you know what’s going on with the world and masks.
It’s that time of year when we are bombarded by flu treatment quackery from “immune-boosting” miracle supplements to junk that “cures” every single virus known to medical science. During this world of the coronavirus pandemic, it seems to be even louder.
This article will attempt to debunk the myths of flu treatments such as “boosting the immune system,” magical supplements, and other nonsense involved with the world of flu treatment pseudoscience.
The one way to prevent the flu, other than hiding in a bubble during the winter (which may be a good thing with the COVID-19 pandemic), is the seasonal flu vaccine. But that’s not a treatment, it prevents the flu.
If you’ve been watching recent claims of the anti-vaccine world, you may have noticed a belief that the flu vaccine and COVID-19 are related. This new trope is based on a recent article that is making the rounds with both COVID-19 and flu vaccine deniers (a special subset of anti-vaxxers).
It’s flu season, but in this horrible year, we need to talk about the seasonal flu vaccine and coronavirus. Before we start, I am not claiming that the flu vaccine will prevent COVID-19, but it might save your life.
President Trump, who has all of the science knowledge of an amoeba, has been attempting to convince us that COVID-19 is nothing more than the flu, despite his just being in a hospital for treatment of COVID-19 and after over 210,000 dead Americans (as of 6 October 2020) because of this disease.
In fact, the flu kills a lot of people worldwide every single year, around 250,000 to 500,000, and the coronavirus, so far, is much worse with over 1 million deaths worldwide as of September 2020. In a normal year, influenza is a very dangerous disease, despite the claims of the anti-vaccine world. It could be much much worse when we get a double hit from the flu and the coronavirus.
Unfortunately, I could not stay both days, because I had to get back to teach on Thursday. But that one day was instructive. Like last time, this meeting was data-heavy and intensive, and the process was thorough.
While a number of anti-vaccine activists attended, there was no real indication that they followed the committee’s deliberations, tried to understand what was discussed, or learned from the information presented.
Their comments during and after the meeting did not contribute substantively to the discussion or offered anything that could lead to meaningful policy changes.
Because of the length of this review, it will be divided into two parts: