From year to year, there are variations in the effectiveness of the flu vaccine, although getting the flu vaccine is infinitely better than contracting the flu and risking some of the major complications of the disease. A peer-reviewed paper has just been published that examines flu vaccine research and development impact on flu vaccine effectiveness. Interestingly, the study authors may have identified the most important reason for the variable effectiveness – because the virus is grown in chicken eggs.
I think it’s important that vaccine manufacturers start to examine methods on how to improve effectiveness, since the flu, despite the claims of the antivaccine world, is a serious and dangerous diseases. And some strains of flu, like the H1N1 can be harmful to young healthy adults.
There are a lot of reasons why the flu vaccine research and development gives us a final product that varies in effectiveness from year to year, and we are going to look into some of them. Continue reading “Flu vaccine research and development – eggs cause low effectiveness”
During the 2016-17 flu season, over 100 children died from the virus. Yet, only 60% of children were vaccinated, despite the fact influenza kills.
Not only do children die of the flu, but between 12,000 – 56,000 adults die every year from the flu in the USA. Some of those people are healthy young adults. In some years, the flu kills more people than many other things that we consider dangerous, like firearms and cars.
It’s difficult to understand why parents seem to ignore the flu vaccine for themselves or for their children. Many people just don’t think the flu is that dangerous. Or they think the vaccine doesn’t work. Or they believe in some other myth that simply isn’t true.
Whatever the reason for avoiding the vaccine for children or adults, it’s important that people know what the flu can do, even for a healthy child or adult. It’s not a disease you can ignore, despite the claims of the anti-vaccine corps. And the flu cannot be treated or prevented by supplements or vitamins. Continue reading “Influenza kills – the flu vaccine saves lives, it’s fairly simple”
We’re nearing the commencement of the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere. And every flu season, for the past 6 years, I reprint Dr. Mark Crislip‘s epic rant about Dumb Ass healthcare workers who refuse to get the flu vaccine.
Dr. Crislip’s hysterical characterizations, which were originally published in A Budget of Dumb Asses, are a list of the different types of flu vaccine refusing healthcare worker Dumb Asses. I resurrect this list every year not only for humor (because it is funny), but also to point the finger at healthcare workers.
Any nurse, pharmacist, therapist, physician, or surgeon that refuses the flu vaccine chooses pseudoscientific nonsense about the vaccine rather than protecting their patients. I may be harsh, but maybe their employment ought to be terminated for their lack of concern about patients.
But the Dumb Asses aren’t just healthcare workers. You know neighbors, friends, family, and even fellow vaccine supporters who are flu vaccine refusers. And they rely on same ridiculous myths as healthcare workers.
The flu season is just starting, and it’s almost impossible to not find a place to get the vaccine. Your family doctor, clinics, pharmacies, and many other places currently have the flu vaccine. And I am not a hypocrite – I received my flu vaccination two weeks ago. Of course, my healthcare plan gives them out for free to all members.
And if you think you can prevent or cure the flu with vitamin C, echinacea, or bone broth (yes, it’s a thing), they don’t work. You are not going to be able to boost your immune system to destroy the flu virus unless you get vaccinated.
We’ve dispensed with many of the myths that are cherished by flu vaccine refusers, and many reseachers have shown that getting the flu vaccine can improve health outcomes.
Continue reading “Flu vaccine refusal – healthcare worker Dumb Asses”
Along with the HPV vaccine, the pediatric flu vaccine has one of the lowest uptakes amongst children’s vaccinations – only around 40% of American children receive the vaccine. Unfortunately, a lot of this ignorance of the flu vaccine may result from an assumption that the flu is just not that serious of a disease. That thinking puts children at risk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) posted an article on their website, “10 Things for Parents to Know About the 2017-2018 Flu Vaccine,” which gives some information about the pediatric flu vaccine. We’re going to give this list the feathery dinosaur’s treatment with a bit more pointed commentary and links. Because everyone loves links. Continue reading “Pediatric flu vaccine – 10 important facts for parents”
Here we go again. Just like the popular zombie TV shows, the flu vaccine myths continue to rise from the dead, scaring people away from protecting themselves from a dangerous disease. And just like Rick Grimes, it’s my job to help my fellow skeptics stop this zombie outbreak and safeguard the innocent from the brain eating tropes of the antivaccine crowd.
Since we’re entering the 2017-2018 flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, your best weapon to avoid the effects of the flu is the seasonal flu vaccine. Despite the known overall safety and effectiveness of the flu vaccine, the antivaccination cult is pushing their ignorant nonsense all over social media, especially Facebook.
Despite all the good reasons to get the vaccine, the CDC estimated the flu vaccine uptake in the USA is around 40%. This is well below the 80-90% uptake required for herd immunity against the flu.
Let’s take a look at these zombie flu vaccine myths, and debunk them once again. Zombies are so hard to put down. Continue reading “Flu vaccine myths – zombie anti-vaccine lies blanket Facebook”
The Washington Post dropped this provocative headline on its readers yesterday, “Researchers find a hint of a link between flu vaccine and miscarriage.” And you know what will happen next –every anti-vaccine website will claim that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages.
Of course, the evidence based facts fail to support the future trope that the flu vaccine causes miscarriages. A careful reading of the Washington Post article is filled with nuance and hedging, because the underlying published article does not actually provide robust evidence that any flu vaccine increases the risk of miscarriages.
The Washington Post made several points that are important to consider, and we’ll examine the underlying research in more depth. But the most important point they made is that,
The findings suggest an association, not a causal link, and the research is too weak and preliminary, experts said, to change the advice, which is based on a multitude of previous studies, that pregnant women should get a flu vaccine to protect them from influenza, a deadly disease that may cause serious birth defects and miscarriage.
I wonder how many anti-vaccine radicals will fail to make that point, instead, screaming that “vaccines are dangerous and the worthless flu vaccine causes miscarriages.”
Well, of course. Del Bigtree isn’t known for his scientific knowledge.
Well, we don’t cherry pick our evidence here, so we’re going to look at the broad body of evidence with respect to the flu, flu vaccines and pregnancy. Because that’s how we roll here. And because we think pregnant women deserve the best information possible to protect themselves and their developing babies. Because that’s also how we roll here. Continue reading “Flu vaccine causes miscarriages – the real evidence says otherwise”
Anti-vaccine activists constantly look for any science that seems to support their beliefs about the safety and effectiveness of vaccines. Lately, they have gravitated to the writings of Peter Doshi, who has made a career talking about vaccines. Although Doshi lacks the credentials in any area of science related to vaccines – immunology, microbiology, virology, public health, epidemiology – the anti-vaccine forces embrace him like he’s a Nobel Prize winning scientist. Which he is not.
Let’s take a look at Doshi’s credentials and what he’s written about vaccines, specifically the flu vaccine. Continue reading “Peter Doshi flu vaccine study – misused by anti-vaxxers”
The world’s population is getting older, since people live longer as a result of our modern healthcare. As people age, their bodies become less able to respond to infections and develop immunity, a process called immunosenescence. One of the most dangerous infectious diseases for the elderly is the flu. Thus, influenza vaccine effectiveness is an important factor for protecting the health of our elderly citizens. Continue reading “Influenza vaccine effectiveness for elderly – fewer hospitalizations”
When dealing with those pushing pseudoscience, like the antivaccination cult, the most frustrating thing is that they tend to ignore and deny the most basic tenets of science. If denying the fact of gravity would further their goals of “proving” vaccines are neither effective nor safe, they would do so. And now that it’s flu season, they’re producing zombie tropes about flu vaccine ingredients.
If the antivaccination movement didn’t lead to epidemics of long-gone diseases, which can harm and kill children, the conversation would be over. I would just put the vaccine deniers in the same group as evolution deniers (creationists) or gravity deniers (there has to be some, somewhere). I would mock their pseudoscience, and move on. Of course, their denialism does lead to deaths of children, so we have to do what is right, and stop their lies, misinformation and ignorance in every forum we can.
We have to appeal to scientific values, and despite the fact that antivaccination pushers don’t share those values, we must continue to try. I have gotten enough emails and comments from people that they have started to vaccinate because of what I have written, so maybe some child’s life is better because all of us who support vaccines are heard.
Continue reading “Flu vaccine ingredients – not so scary using simple math”
When it comes to the influenza vaccine, there are a number of myths that surround the flu vaccine, pushed by vaccine deniers and, often, by vaccine supporters. The two most prevalent seems to be that the flu vaccine isn’t very effective, and the flu isn’t that dangerous. But a new peer-reviewed article has been published that focuses on these two myths. Based on the evidence, flu vaccine effectiveness prevents pediatric deaths. Period.
There have been numerous articles about flu vaccine effectiveness over the years – it’s rarely 90% or greater. The major reason for this is that all of the health organizations across the world have to meet 8-10 months before the flu season to determine what subtype(s) of flu virus will be most common in the northern or southern hemisphere. In some years, the flu virus will mutate between the time to decide on the right antigen and the vaccine is manufactured and shipped.
Generally, the vaccine is very effective against influenza B, mainly because this subtype of flu tends to mutate at a much lower rate than other flu viruses. On the other hand, the vaccine tends to have somewhat lower effectiveness against influenza A, mainly because of its higher mutation rate, and because it can infect (and mutate) in many other animals, especially birds, which have regular contact with humans.
But in no case is the effectiveness at 0. There seems to be a reliance on the Nirvana fallacy – if it’s not perfect, it’s worthless. Yes, the flu vaccine effectiveness is far from perfect, it ranges from 40-65% most years. But does that mean it’s worthless? Absolutely not. The flu vaccine prevents a lot of pediatric deaths, something we need to carefully examine.
Flu vaccine effectiveness – the publication
In a paper published in Pediatrics by Flannery et al., the authors reviewed laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths since 2004 to determine the relationship with flu vaccination status. What they found was that the vaccine was much better at preventing pediatric death than not vaccinating at all – this may seem obvious, but it’s better to have statistically valid data published in a top rated journal.
The researchers conducted a case-cohort epidemiological study that compared vaccination uptake among laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths with estimated vaccination coverage among pediatric cohorts in the United States. The study design allows the researchers to determine the actual flu vaccine effectiveness in preventing pediatric deaths.
Using data from July 2010 through June 2014, there were 358 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric deaths reported in children aged 6 months through 17 years. The researchers were able to determine vaccination status for 291 of these deaths. Here are their results:
- Of the 291 deaths with known vaccination status, 75 (26%) received the vaccine before onset of the flu, and 216 (74%) were unvaccinated.
- The overall vaccine effectiveness against death was 65%, which means the vaccine prevented pediatric death in 65% of the population.
- The vaccine effectiveness against death in children with high-risk conditions was 51%
This data clearly shows a difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated groups with respect to pediatric death.
Flannery et al. conclude that,
Influenza vaccination was associated with reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death. Increasing influenza vaccination could prevent influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents.
Flu vaccines save lives
This is robust and high quality evidence that the flu vaccine prevents pediatric deaths. Most children who die from the flu are unvaccinated, that is clear from this analysis. The job of vaccines is to prevent infectious diseases that harm our children (and adults) – the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, but for minimal risk, it prevents a lot of deaths. It does save lives.
Flannery B, Reynolds SB, Blanton L, Santibanez TA, O’Halloran A, Lu P-J, Chen J, Foppa IM, Gargiullo P, Bresee J, Singleton JA, Fry AM. Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness Against Pediatric Deaths: 2010–2014
- Yamashita M, Krystal M, Fitch WM, Palese P. Influenza B virus evolution: co-circulating lineages and comparison of evolutionary pattern with those of influenza A and C viruses. Virology. 1988 Mar;163(1):112-22. PubMed PMID: 3267218.