Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant

flu vaccine during pregnancy

The modern healthcare system of developed countries have done an outstanding job in reducing the burden of infectious diseases over the past few decades. However, some susceptible groups, such as infants, remain at significant risk to these diseases. Research has recently shown that the flu vaccine during pregnancy protects infants from that disease. This is more data that provides evidence that getting vaccinated, even during pregnancy, is important to infant health.

In a new paper published in Pediatrics, by Dr. Julie H. Shakib et al. of the University of Utah Medical School Department of Pediatrics, examined the health of infants born to influenza-immunized mothers. The short version is that the babies born to these mothers had a smaller number of laboratory confirmed influenza infections and fewer hospitalizations compared to infants born to non-immunized mothers.

I could almost stop there, bold, underline and italicize those results, and move to another article. Lucky for me, the readers of this blog demand real data to support the above conclusion. And I’m here to do just that.

Continue reading “Flu vaccine during pregnancy – protects the infant”

Healthcare worker flu vaccinations – fair accommodations

What fair accommodations can be made for healthcare worker flu vaccinations

In a previous post, I analyzed the implementation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, 1964 in the context of influenza vaccines (see also, a more comprehensive analysis). In this article, I examine what fair accommodations can be made for healthcare worker flu vaccinations.

A recent case examined how the requirements of Title VII will be implemented, showing that Title VII does not require hospitals to exempt employees with religious oppositions from influenza vaccines – and that if it does offer accommodations, there are limits to what an employee can expect to be done to accommodate her beliefs. Continue reading “Healthcare worker flu vaccinations – fair accommodations”

Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 4

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 6-8 weeks. Flu mortality during the 2015-16 season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 18 pediatric flu deaths through 27 February 2016, an increase of 4 from last week.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 18,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these deaths. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

In fact, according to CDC reports, the influenza-B strain is more prevalent this year than in the past, and the flu vaccine is more effective against B strains of flu. So, it’s possible (though still early) that the lighter flu season can be attributed to vaccines.

Continue reading “Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 4”

Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 3

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 6-8 weeks. Flu mortality during the 2015-16 season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 11 pediatric flu deaths through 6 February 2016. This is a slight increase from the previous two reports.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 11,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these 7 deaths. Moreover, it’s early. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

In fact, according to CDC reports, the influenza-B strain is more prevalent this year than in the past, and the flu vaccine is more effective against B strains of flu. So, it’s possible (though still early) that the lighter flu season can be attributed to vaccines.

Continue reading “Pediatric and adult flu mortality 2015-16 – update 3”

Pediatric flu deaths 2015-16 – Update 2

flu mortality 2015-16

In the USA, we’re nearing the heart of the flu season, with pediatric flu deaths peaking during the next 8-10 weeks. So far in the 2015-16 flu season (which generally starts on October 1), the CDC has reported that there have been 7 pediatric flu deaths through the 4th week of December. This is unchanged from the previous report.

Now, I know some of you may say “only 7,” but since pediatric flu is mostly prevented with a vaccine, we could prevent these 7 deaths. Moreover, it’s early. During the last 3 years, there were 171 pediatric flu deaths in 2012-13, 11 in 2013-14, and 148 in 2014-15 – most of the pediatric flu deaths happened after this week.

It seems that the the numbers are lower, so far, than in previous years. However, this flu season may be several weeks late, probably as a result of warmer weather (no, warm weather does not block the flu). Flu mortality across all ages crossed the threshold for an “epidemic” last week, so these numbers might increase. Let’s hope they don’t, but as opposed to what people believe, flu is dangerous.

Continue reading “Pediatric flu deaths 2015-16 – Update 2”

New York City flu immunization requirements – court ruling

On December 11, 2013 the New York City Board of Health adopted a rule – which we will refer to as New York City flu immunization requirements – establishing that children aged 6-59 months attending full time daycares that meet certain criteria to receive an annual influenza vaccine (see Resolution NY Influenza vaccine rule, pdf).

On December 16, 2015 Justice Manuel J. Mendez from New York’s Supreme Court (which, in spite of the name, is not the highest court in New York state) granted certain petitioners’ motion to declare the rule “invalid and unlawful” (see NY mandate decision, pdf). Note that although there is a higher instance, in this case, I doubt the decision – which is well reasoned and appropriate, in my view – would be overturned.

This post explains what the court decided and what it means.  Continue reading “New York City flu immunization requirements – court ruling”

Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – 2015

This article – Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – separating fact from fiction – has been reblogged with permission from Tara Haelle's Red Wine and Applesauce blog.

Editor’s Note: This article – separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – separating fact from fiction – has been reblogged with permission from Tara Haelle’s Red Wine and Applesauce blog. Many thanks to Tara and a host of other people for creating this list.

Note from Tara Haell: This post is co-published with NPR’s health blog Shots. Check out the story for updated information about this year’s flu shot from a CDC medical officer.

Once again, flu season is upon us — and so are all the misconceptions, excuses and worries that have kept so many people away from getting their flu vaccines. Plenty of people are fully informed about the flu vaccine’s safety and effectiveness and simply choose not to get the vaccine, as is their right (as long as they don’t work in healthcare settings where it’s required). But many others may have skipped the shot because they’ve bought into one of the many myths about the vaccine that always circulating with the influenza virus itself. Or perhaps they’ve read something unsettling about the vaccine that has a kernel of truth in it, but which has been blown out of proportion or misrepresented.

Of all the vaccines out there, the flu vaccine is unique in several ways: it’s the only one the CDC recommends for the entire (eligible) population every year, it has the most variability (and nearly always the lowest percentages) in effectiveness, and it has more tall tales told about it than Paul Bunyan. Much of the debunking and explaining you’ll find here is essentially the same as in past years’ posts, but a couple misconceptions have been rearranged, and I spent a bit more time discussing the evidence about potentially lower effectiveness of the flu vaccine in people who had gotten it the previous year.

Finally, I called these items “concerns” instead of “myths” because several of the issues discussed here are not outright “myths.” That is, some of these concerns originated from factual situations, but the details got gnarled and twisted along the way, or else the fact itself doesn’t have the implications people may expect it does. “Concerns” therefore better captures that each of these items is a legitimate concern for many people but is something that simply requires explanation, whether that’s an outright debunking or simply context and clarification.

One thing that needs a bit of clarification is last year’s vaccine’s effectiveness, as I discuss in the NPR Shots blog post that accompanies this one. The overall flu vaccine effectiveness last year was an uninspiring 23%, low enough to legitimately make you wonder why you bothered if you got the vaccine. But as I explain at NPR based on an interview with CDC influenza medical officer Lisa Grohskopf, the overall effectiveness doesn’t capture the effectiveness of each strain within the vaccine.

A poor match with the H3N2 strain — which caused the most illness and the most serious cases — was responsible for the lion’s share of that low number. Meanwhile, the match between the vaccine strains and the virus strains for B viruses, which circulated the most toward the end of the season, was good enough that the vaccine was closer to 60% effectiveness for those strains. This year, changes to the H3N2 strain for the vaccine should boost the effectiveness and offer a better showing than last year’s lousy run, according to Grohskopf.

With that info out of the way, let’s get to the flu vaccine concerns, with two important notes. First, for those who prefer to do their own research, I’ve provided all my sources in the hyperlinks. More than half of these go directly to peer-reviewed research articles, and a fair number go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Second, but very important: I am a science journalist but not a medical doctor or other health care professional. I’ve compiled research here to debunk common misconceptions and clarify common concerns about the flu vaccine. This post does not constitute a recommendation from me personally to each reader to get a flu vaccine. You should always consult a reliable, trusted medical professional with questions that pertain specifically to you. For the CDC recommendations on the 2015-2016 flu vaccines (including information on which vaccines pregnant women, the elderly and children under 2 should *not* get), please consult the CDC flu vaccine recommendations directly. There are indeed people who should *not* get the flu vaccine.

To make it easier to navigate, I’ve listed all 31 concerns at the top followed by the factual information below it. They hyperlinked facts will jump to that explanation. I use “flu shot” and “flu vaccine” interchangeably to refer to any type of flu vaccine, including the nasal vaccine.

Continue reading “Separating fact from fiction about the flu vaccine – 2015”

The flu can kill – get the seasonal flu vaccine

Every year I, and a lot of other pro-science bloggers, write article after article about getting the seasonal flu vaccine, which, of course, prevents most types of flu. I even have a very popular article that calls health care workers who don’t get their flu vaccines “dumbasses.”

The seasonal flu vaccine saves lives. There is almost no evidence contrary to that fact.

And this week, California public health officials confirmed the first flu-related death of the 2015-16 flu season. The flu victim was under 65 years old and lived in Santa Clara County. Yes, the flu can be most dangerous to the elderly, but it’s also dangerous for those with chronic diseases, the very young, and, frankly, everyone else.

And just as frightening, a baby, less than 1 year old, died of the flu this week in Stanislaus County, CA. If the baby was less than six months old, then she wasn’t eligible for the vaccine, so she was at risk of contracting the disease. I cannot think of anything more painful than imagining what these parents are feeling.

Continue reading “The flu can kill – get the seasonal flu vaccine”

Miracle immune boosting flu protection – Big Pharma hates it

So what is this miracle immune boosting flu protection – is it being suppressed by the CDC, FDA, WHO and the Illuminati? And why does Big Pharma hate it – is it keeping them from printing money?

These are the important questions.

And of course, there are no immune boosting flu protection miracles. Well, except for the one actual miracle – the seasonal flu vaccine, and that’s not a miracle, it’s outstanding science that created it.

It is very safe, unless you ascribe to myths about flu vaccines. It is usually very effective, although the vaccine is based on reasonable and scientific estimates of what mutations will be prevalent during the flu season, and sometimes, they’re off.

Your immune system is very powerful, and, except for instances of chronic diseases or malnutrition, it is always very powerful. You cannot boost your immune system through junk science – one of the few ways to “boost” your immune system against flu is the flu vaccine.

And why does Big Pharma hate the flu vaccine? Because if more people got sick from the flu, they’d make an economic windfall from all of the stuff they’d sell to hospitals. And Big Mortuary would be just as happy. Even though flu vaccine uptake is not as high as we want, it’s still keeping the gold bars away from Big Pharma and Big Mortuary.

And that is a good thing.

Continue reading “Miracle immune boosting flu protection – Big Pharma hates it”

Study affirms value of flu vaccination among the elderly

Every month, there are generally 10-20 new papers published in prominent biomedical journals about vaccines. I try to read most of them, but they’re generally boring. Blah blah blah, vaccines are relatively safe and effective.

I mean how many times am I forced to read an article that supports the scientific consensus about the incredible advantages to human health derived from vaccines. Enough already. Let’s publish something more interesting like the overwhelming safety profile of GMO foods. Oh, we’ve done that.

To be fair, occasionally there are published articles that try to provide evidence that vaccines are dangerous or ineffective. Almost always, those articles are almost always published in very low impact journals, some of them with, at best, cursory peer review.

Given all of the mountains of data that support the safety and effectiveness of vaccines, a dues-paying member of the anti-vaccine world has little choice but to cherry pick articles, though they know that the ones they do pick are often poorly done and published in obscure, very low ranked journals.

Generally, their next step is to then cherry pick a sentence or tiny piece of data out of a larger positive article, so that they can say “see, there’s a conspiracy going on, they’re hiding data.” Let’s take a look at a recent published article where some of this nonsense is happening.

Continue reading “Study affirms value of flu vaccination among the elderly”