By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
November 20, 2017
- Getting a flu shot doesn’t prevent you from getting the flu
- Things to consider before your next flu shot
- Check out this flu-fighting vitamin
If you’ve been debating on whether to get your flu shot or not, I just want to make one thing clear.
Getting a flu shot does not prevent you from getting the flu.
That’s right. It only protects you against influenza viruses that researchers think will be common during the upcoming flu season. To top it off, the influenza virus is constantly mutating. So it’s nearly impossible to predict its form far enough in advance to create a truly effective vaccine.
As a result, vaccine effectiveness varies greatly from year to year. For example, in the 2014-2015 flu season the vaccine was only 19% effective against the virus.
The CDC themselves say that “During years when the flu vaccine is not well matched to circulating influenza viruses, it is possible that no benefit from flu vaccination may be observed.”
I don’t know about you, but this greatly clashes with my idea of what a vaccine should do for you. After all, if it doesn’t stop you from getting sick, what’s the purpose of being vaccinated in the first place?
Things to Consider before Your Next Flu Shot
In addition to offering very little protection, there are also factors that could further lower the effectiveness of flu shots.
For example, statin drugs drastically reduce your immune response to the vaccine. Compared to non-statin users, those who use statins generate 38% to 67% fewer antibodies in response to flu vaccines. This likely erases the already small benefit of getting a flu shot.
Plus, receiving a yearly flu may reduce your ability to fight off the virus in the future. Repeated vaccinations not only lower the effectiveness, they also fail to protect against the spread of the flu to other household members.
Ultimately, protection is greatest in people who haven’t received the vaccination in the previous five years.
And don’t forget. These shots are not without side effects. They could produce an anaphylactic reaction. There are also reports of shoulder injuries related to administration of the vaccine.
Even worse, there appears to be a link between flu shots and the development of Guillain-Barré syndrome. This is an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system and can result in paralysis.
Now, whether to get a flu shot is your decision to make. Just remember that it won’t make you bulletproof against the flu.
Meanwhile, there are actions everyone can take to ward off the flu this season.
Can this Flu-Fighting Vitamin Replace Flu Shots?
Flu season typically starts in October or November and starts tapering off around March. Guess what else happens during this same time period?
Your vitamin D levels decline. If you live north of Atlanta it’s literally impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and March.
Well, this is more than coincidence. It turns out that vitamin D plays a critical role when it comes to immune support against the flu and other seasonal viruses. It helps your body produce natural antibodies that protect against flu, colds and other respiratory tract infections.
However, about three out of four people here in the U.S. have insufficient levels of this crucial nutrient. So it may not be a situation where the flu is so hard to avoid. Rather, it’s that vitamin D is so hard to come by during flu season.
In fact, when school children took 1,200 IU of vitamin D3 daily from December through March, it cut the occurrence of influenza-A nearly in half. So in lieu of getting a flu shot, you may be better off supplementing with 2,000 to 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 in the cholecalciferol form.
In addition to vitamin D supplementation, the standard rules of winter health apply.
- Keep your hands clean. Use warm soap and water repeatedly throughout the day. (Don’t count on hand sanitizers. They only kill bacteria, not viruses).
- Feed your immune system with antioxidant-rich fruits, vegetables, beans and nuts. It’s also a good idea to take a daily multi-vitamin/mineral supplement. In the meantime, lay off the processed food and sugars that run you down.
- If you don’t get enough sleep, it weakens your immune response and leaves you wide open to catch a cold or the flu. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep to keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
Vaccine Effectiveness – How Well Does the Flu Vaccine Work? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last updated Oct 2017.
Black S, et al. Influence of Statins on Influenza Vaccine Response in Elderly Individuals. J Infect Dis. 2016 Apr 15;213(8):1224-8.
Ohmit SE, et al. Influenza vaccine effectiveness in the community and the household. Clin Infect Dis. 2013 May;56(10):1363-9.
McLean HQ, et al. Impact of repeated vaccination on vaccine effectiveness against influenza A(H3N2) and B during 8 seasons. Clin Infect Dis. 2014 Nov 15;59(10):1375-85.
Martín Arias LH, et al. Guillain-Barré syndrome and influenza vaccines: A meta-analysis. Vaccine. 2015 Jul 17;33(31):3773-8.
Charan J, et al. Vitamin D for prevention of respiratory tract infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Oct-Dec; 3(4): 300–303.
Urashima M, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010 May;91(5):1255-60.