Anti-flu vaccination, vaccines and flu itself are the hot topics of this time of the year.
November the 4th saw the start of the anti-flu vaccination campaign in Italy, a media event that began hitting the news since the end of August.
After the failure of the past year’s campaign, with further loss of overall credibility, the attempt to maintain greater vaccination coverage seems to be the true, only goal of those who support vaccination as a unique tool for prevention.
Last year campaign saw the blockade of 2.5 million vaccine-ready doses produced by Crucell due to a bacterial contamination and of other 3 million flu vaccine doses produced by Novartis (Agrippal, subunit Influpozzi, adjuvanted Influpozzi and Fluad), of which 500.000 already distributed and the remaining ones already produced and ready to use.
The fear, generated at the time in the middle of the vaccination campaign, was likely caused by the excessively stimulating action of the vaccine on the immune system. This type of vaccines were adjuvanted, that is, they have been added with something that the body can recognize as an “enemy”, triggering an excessive immune reaction, not only addressed towards the possible target virus, but also towards organs and systems of the whole body, this being a risk present in every type of vaccination, but probably, in this case, extremely pronounced.
Moreover, this year the comparison with the clinical data coming from Australia has been specifically avoided. The fact that a simple and easy comparison has not been deliberately made, shows us how the focus on the primary goal of the whole campaign has been lost.
Science should define its primary objectives more effectively when it produces something bearing a potential risk. Sadly, last year the Italian Health minister said that the companies distributing vaccines were aware of the potential risk since July but the news were only released on October the 18th; for this reason, my claim of scepticism around certain types of science increasingly gains importance.
As an immunologist, every year I refer to the clinical data produced in Australia, which are able to provide our scientists with an (almost) exact description of what will happen in our hemisphere during the winter, 6 months in advance. Also this year, the information coming from Australia is pretty reassuring, since it tells us that the flu virulence is both lower than what seen in 2012 and in 2011.
Yet, as always, we hear of pessimistic claims regarding the incoming flu epidemic. Regardless of the most basic rules on memory, despite the hot debate that followed the false pandemic of H1N1 swine-flu, as it happened in September 2010 when Italian newspapers reported the interviews made to the same old virologists, who repeated the same exact concepts said in the previous years, the ritual is also now happening, with the same things told and retold again. If this was not a sad reality, it would easily look like a tongue twister, instead…
We heard and read that flu will be powerful and debilitating, that it will arrive early and it will hit many people in absence of the right preventive attitude (i.e. the vaccination). Just like every year.
We should definitely remember what happened in 2004 with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) and the H5N1 bird flu, when the biggest damage produced was mainly the result of fear. Many people chose vaccination although doubtful. In relation to the 2009 outbreak of H1N1 type-A swine flu, I clearly described why I had chosen not to go for vaccination in an article cited by various Italian newspapers.
Furthermore, prevention of flu is also feasible through natural, alternative forms of therapy. Fortunately, internet, a better awareness on the topic and a significant dissemination of knowledge played a huge role in 2009-2010, when the vaccination campaign ended up being an absolute flop.
We believe that who is convinced of the validity of being vaccinated has the right to do so. However, we should remember that media campaigns are not always linked to objective facts and that anti-flu immunization is perhaps a useful prophylaxis, but certainly not risk-free. And anyone in doubt should have the freedom to refrain from vaccination.
- An anti-flu vaccine shows, like all types of vaccine, some potential benefits, but also possible detriments that should be clearly disclosed to allow an informed choice to the citizens.
- Flu variability is very high, making it very difficult to predict the way it will spread: despite this, September and October newspapers’ headlines usually speak about millions of sick people, numbers that end up not occurring.
- The epidemic forecasts often result being wrong. Let’s just think of what happened in the winter season of 2009 and 2010 in the southern hemisphere. The dreaded H1N1-related epidemic or pandemic resulted in a negligible number of deaths, around one-twentieth of those dying each year for the traditional flu. The scientific community, instead of reading and interpreting the numbers, continued to warn of potential hazards and problems actually not real.
The problem does not stand only upon the possible risks caused by the anti-flu vaccination, but in general by all those types of vaccines, which obsessively seek protection forgetting that the immune system is something biologically alive, not certainly of a mechanic nature. Recently, the harsh debate regarding the severe damage potentially caused by the excessive number of vaccinations offered to the Italian soldiers, has led to an investigation whose results are simply shocking.
On the other hand, the past years have shown entire football teams of vaccinated players ended up in bed with flu rather than in the field. And even if, as explained by some experts, being vaccinated decreases the danger of confusing the symptoms of a normal flu with those shown by SARS patients (or with those typical of the bird-flu or of the type-A H1N1, as some experts claimed), we still struggle to understand how this could be true, looking at the numbers of flu cases, especially those occurring to vaccinated people.
In regards to the possible vaccination against H1N1, whose strain is, in any case, present in all vaccine preparations from 2009 to today, it is good to remember, as described below, what happened in 1976 with the single anti-swine flu vaccination campaign implemented until today, to understand how useful would be to stop for a critical consideration, before starting with a thorough vaccination campaign using untested vaccines.
Unfortunately, the trivalent vaccine scheduled for the 2010-2011 vaccination campaign also included a vaccine against the H1N1 swine flu virus, while there was no actual need; this sparked much controversy in 2012, and every year this vaccine is systematically included in the formulation.
It is not our intention to enter into the debate regarding the effectiveness of this form of preventive care, but in view of the public and constant invitation to vaccinate every child (not just those, for which the benefits may outweigh the risks), today we feel the moral need to contribute to the discussion by talking about the possible harmful effects, which the official organs of information, these days, seem deliberately or unconsciously to neglect.
The children in the front line
In a free country and civil society, citizens have to be informed and be able to choose accordingly. However, if those triggering the sales of vaccines are also those tailoring the information conveyed, which keeps saying that vaccination is absolutely harmless, the whole plot does not sound logic anymore. What is said is false and the potential risks of the anti-flu vaccination, also possibly severe, have been scientifically proven (but poorly disseminated!).
If (as it has happened in the past but we hope it will no longer happen) someone keeps stating that the more children will be vaccinated, the less fearful SARS, swine-flu or other forms of serious viral infection will be, and the less suffering will be delivered to our kids, this person is just an unashamed liar, only trying to ride an emotional, intense moment to obtain a commercial advantage or other indirect benefits (i.e. to keep up the fear).
A healthy child, who contracts flu (provided that he gets sick despite the necessary behavioural pro prophylaxis rightly in place), if well fed and supported with the adequate vitamin and mineral support, will certainly overcome the disease, sometimes with the help of some supportive medicine.
We are always left surprised by the fact that in two successive meta-analyses, Cochrane (the global super partes authority, which examines all the scientific data produced by the international scientific community) confirmed the ineffectiveness of the preventive vaccine in children up to two years; despite this, the general indication is to systematically vaccinate children from 6 months of age. Why the Ministry of Health keeps flagging instructions that are the exact contrary of the existing scientific knowledge?
Moreover, and we will never stop repeating it, whoever falls ill with flu, will come out from it both healed and with improved immunological defences (during a viral infection, interferon levels increase and protect us, for example, from future tumorigenic forms) .
The evidence of those using homeopathy and natural forms of treatment, to prevent recurrent winter infections and flu, is large and well represented in the Italian population.
Given the correct information, citizens may still be able to choose, according to their beliefs, between following a vaccination itinerary with some likely benefits (and risks, too) or a different treatment, probably beneficial (but without any vaccine-related risk).
The scientific truth hidden under the carpet
Let’s talk about the lies. We are not referring to the fact that too many vaccinations may be harmful (although more and more data invite us to reflect around this possibility), since one could always say that we base our statements on an ideology or a creed different from those serving the medical science.
Therefore, we refer only to a list of solid scientific studies, some of which recently published, that merely reiterate the existence of possible vaccination-related risks, drafted in the world’s most famous centres for “classic” and conventional medicine.
What would you say, for instance, if you were told that, by vaccinating all Italian children with the “harmless anti-flu vaccination”, you could expect at least 10-15 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome (aka polyradiculoneuritis) more than what usually happens, which means at least 10-15 children less than 7 years old, possibly including ours, semi-paralysed for numerous months and, in some rare cases, even for life, unable to move, to act, to think as before?
Yet, a group of American epidemiologists reported this as early as in 1998 (N Engl J Med 1998 Dec 17; 339 (25):1797-802), with numbers that are complementary to those presented by an Australian study, which reported, for the years 2000 and 2002, the frequency of serious adverse events to be 16.7 every 100.000 doses of vaccine in children under 7, compared with 67 trivial post-vaccination events every 100.000 doses (Commun Dis Intell. 2003, 27 (3): 307-23).
The referencing process of all the articles on flu vaccine-related neurological damage should continue. These events are not very frequent, but still possible and serious phenomena; those not disclosing their existence are lying, creating false information about health.
The list goes from myelitis (Eur J Neurol. November 2000, 7 (6):731-3) to optic neuritis (J Neuroophthalmol. 1996 Sep; 16(3):182-4). To be accurately informed, it should be noted that flu itself could result in inflammation of the nervous tissue as a complication, but it is still dramatic to recognize that in 1977 most of the 58 Guillain-Barré syndrome-linked deaths in the US occurred in vaccinated individuals, with a disease onset 3-4 weeks after vaccination (Neurology. 1980 Sep; 30(9):929-33).
Perhaps the vaccination-related damages are more than those determined by the actual disease? Still we do not have a clear answer; however, communicating a doubt is much different than disseminating an arrogant and guilty message of harmlessness. In this case, as an immunologist, I feel I can express much more than a single doubt.
I find it deeply regrettable that the occurrence of events, still not very frequent but, in any case, well documented as a result of the anti-flu vaccination is not made public. It is not acceptable that the Ministry of Health’s website, until last year, only reported a modest rise in temperature and the “bum boo-boo” as the only detectable side-effects following vaccination. Luckily, for the 2010-2011 campaign the website at least reported that there may be some sort of risk (as shown in a web-page only reachable after 6 clicks) even though, despite the solid evidence presented here, they still state that such cases have been only reported but never confirmed.
Children paralyzed due to a vaccination, after all, will never be that many for the Italian economy, but every single case is worth a conscious decision in order to face a risk. It is correct that those who choose should know that, without hearing that vaccination is almost completely harmless when this is not true at all. Learning about facts later exacerbates the level of drama.
What should we conclude, just to cite another example, from all those cases of ORS (ocular respiratory syndrome), about which Eurosalus immediately spoke and which at first had been underplayed for their importance and then viewed as dependent on a “slightly abnormal” vaccine, but today even confirmed, by a double-blinded comparison against placebo, in 44 % of patients who have already had it? These results were published online ahead of print (Clin Infect Dis. Oct 15 2003, 37 (8):1059-66. Epub 2003 Sep 26) and resulted significant enough to push the authors to suggest the relevant conclusions to anyone who had suffered from such condition.
Certainly, such an issue shows partial gravity; still, why those who choose vaccination should not know that they could lose all their hair? Such evidence particularly applies to the mandatory vaccination anti-hepatitis B, but it also stands in good measure to the anti-flu one (JAMA. 1997 Oct 8; 278(14):1176-8). In the end, the vaccine industry seems to think: what’s wrong with having kids bald, if they managed to avoid 4 days of fever and sore throat?
What about if one of the most respected American researchers, from the May 2003 issue of Clinical Immunology (Clin Immunol. 2003 May; 107(2):116 -21), concluded that an informed consent should perhaps be required for the anti-flu vaccination, after analysing 382 cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome after flu jabs detected in USA between 1991 and 1998, which means 50 cases/year documented as caused by the vaccine and the particular quantity of endotoxin associated with the virus, compared to a zero risk for the vaccination with tetanus toxin? Why an informed consent for something that should only do well?
As a citizen, I think that we deserve something more than partial and aggressive public information, as instead the anti-flu vaccination campaign resulted to be. The consciousness of the population has probably improved, now being able to perceive where the commercial interests eventually prevail over moral respect. However, I still remain outraged.
Although my choices may be different, I still respect and appreciate those colleagues, who keep suggesting flu jabs following their belief, however flagging all the potentially related risks.
Instead, I do stigmatize and condemn that type of commercial arrogance, trying to hide “under the carpet” all the scientific evidences that they strenuously defend, when these become inconvenient.
On DocSalus, we repeatedly gave comprehensive information on the wide array of choice for a natural prevention of all the winter-related cold phenomena, flu included.
Every year, we keep recognizing media attacks of this kind, regularly occurring in TV and newspapers.
Today, this article serves two main purposes: to reassure those who consciously choose against anti-flu vaccination for themselves or their children, even if offered in such a pressing way; to peacefully inform those who consciously choose to vaccinate themselves or their kids.
Numerous are the scientific grounds that support such decision; fortunately, we have valid tools to deal with old and new types of virus without starting believing to have made the wrong choices for the children.
We are still living in a country unable to allow independent and conscious decisions from the citizen, who will be able to do so, in one way or another, only when properly informed