The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has announced that this year's flu shot doesn't match the major strain that's causing the majority of cases spreading across America. A mutated version of the influenza A (H3N2) component that's contained in this year's flu shot is the most common strain that's currently circulating. But since the strain has changed since this season's vaccine was formulated, that means that the flu shot you may have gotten a month ago will do even less than usual to keep you from getting flu.
"The flu vaccine never works for most of us, and this year it's going to be even worse," says holistic family physician Dr. David Brownstein.
There are many strains of flu virus, and scientists decide early in the year which strains they believe will be the prominent strain in the coming flu season. They include their picks in the new vaccines — three in the traditional flu vaccine, and four in the new quadrivalent vaccine, which theoretically protects against four strains of flu virus. "They just take their best guess, and they're often wrong," Dr. Brownstein tells Newsmax Health. "But right or wrong, there's never any real difference in the numbers of cases of flu whether the vaccine is a good match or not."
The CDC has warned that the H3N2 strain that's circulating is linked to flu that's more severe than usual, and results in more hospitalizations and deaths. And they urge people to get the shot, telling them the vaccine will still offer some protection.
They're also urging people who catch the flu to rush to their doctor to get an antiviral, such as Tamiflu. "It's ridiculous," says Dr. Brownstein, author of the newsletter Dr. Brownstein's Natural Way to Health.
"In the first place, the vaccine doesn't work. The main reason given for adults to get vaccinated is to prevent complications arising from the flu, including pneumonia, which kills more than 30,000 Americans each year," he says. "However, a review of 50 studies that included more than 70,000 adults found that 100 people needed to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms, which include fever, runny nose, and cough."
If you're elderly or obese, your chances are slim of getting any protection at all from the flu shot. "The immune systems of the elderly don't respond to the vaccine," says Dr. Brownstein. "There's been no decrease in the numbers of flu cases in seniors since they began getting flu shots, even though about 80 percent of them are vaccinated. The vaccine just isn't effective."
The obese are out of luck, also. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity found that obese people had a weakened response to flu vaccinations. "These results suggest that overweight and obese people would be more likely than healthy weight people to experience flu illness following exposure to the flu virus," said Melinda Beck, Ph.D., professor and associate chair of nutrition at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and senior author of the study.
And what about the CDC's advice to get an antiviral medication if you do get the flu? "I advise against taking them," says Dr. Brownstein. "They don't work, they're expensive, and they have a lot of dangerous side effects. If the CDC was doing its job, it would take them off the market.
"I don't recommend taking the flu shot, and I don't see why the CDC would recommend it knowing it doesn't match the current flu strain and in addition has toxic additives, including mercury and formaldehyde," says Dr. Brownstein. "
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