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My Turn: You deserve to know about, question vaccines

Last modified: 12/3/2013 12:25:01 PM
With the troubling “no exceptions” flu shot mandates for health care workers and the government’s “cradle to grave” annual flu shot recommendation for everyone over 6 months old, the public is asking legitimate questions about the safety, effectiveness and necessity of this policy. For the facts, I recommend the National Vaccine Information Center at nvic.org as your first resource in seeking the information you need to make an informed vaccine decision for yourself or your children.

Many people tell me they are often laughed at when they report illness and injuries following vaccination to their doctors. Are medical professionals fulfilling their legal obligation to report vaccine-related health problems to the federal Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System?

Has there been good scientific evidence that actual outcomes after influenza vaccination result in a reduction in illness or deaths? Every year before influenza vaccines are released for public use, drug companies only have to show that the vaccines stimulate a certain number of antibodies to be considered “effective”; they don’t actually have to demonstrate the vaccines prevent infection.

Many people who think they have influenza actually are sick with an influenza-like illness caused by other respiratory viruses. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that only 15 to 20 percent of the suspected cases of influenza that are tested by the CDC each year turn out to be positive for type A or type B influenza viruses.

But what about influenza deaths? The reality is that the CDC does not know how many influenza deaths occur annually because all the evidence isn’t being collected. Last year, the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services reported that there were 44 influenza-related deaths. So how many of the 44 people in New Hampshire, who were classified as influenza-related deaths, had been “protected” by a flu shot?

I wrote the state and asked how many of these 44 deceased citizens had gotten a flu shot. I didn’t ask for any information protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act that would identify the patients – just a vaccination status number. I was given excuses ranging from HIPAA protections to “we don’t know.” The public deserves to know how many had gotten flu shots but still were infected with lab-confirmed influenza and then died. Apparently, either nobody knows or nobody is talking.

Since it is flu-shot season, it was appropriate to run the Nov. 10 Monitor ad raising questions about the influenza vaccine and providing informational resources, even though the ad has generated comments from some who are upset that anybody would ask questions about a government-mandated pharmaceutical product. The ad encourages adults and parents of children being aggressively lobbied to purchase and receive influenza vaccine every year to obtain accurate and complete information about vaccine ingredients, side effects, contra-indications and how effective the vaccine is in preventing infection.

Vaccines, like all pharmaceutical products, are not without risks of harm or failure. These risks can be greater for some individuals than others because we do not all respond the same way to prescription drugs or vaccines. The smart patient will tune out the fear mongering and get the facts about influenza and influenza vaccines, as well as become educated about other potentially safer and more effective options for strengthening the immune system and staying well during the flu season.

I appreciate the support of Crossroads Chiropractic in making it possible to provide this public service message, and I appreciate the Concord Monitor for providing the forum for public discussion. You can get more information about influenza and influenza vaccines at nvic.org. Remember: It’s your body. It’s your health. It’s your choice.

(Laura Condon is New Hampshire director of advocacy for the National Vaccine Information Center.)


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