Although you can refuse to take an annual flu shot, your doctor may not have that privilege. More and more hospitals and other healthcare facilities across the United States require that all employees get flu shots, and some workers are fired if they refuse.
Even local and state governments are demanding mandatory routine flu shots. Last week, all Los Angeles county healthcare workers who come in contact with patients were ordered to get the shot or wear a protective mask throughout the entire flu season.
"This is absolutely outrageous," says holistic family physician Dr. David Brownstein, editor of Dr. David Brownstein's Natural Way to Health
. "In fact, it's beyond outrageous.
They are forcing workers to take a vaccine that has been shown to be worthless.
"Protecting the patients should be the No. 1 goal of any hospital," Dr. Brownstein tells Newsmax Health. "However, mandating that every single hospital worker receive the flu vaccine or face termination is not the correct way to improve patient care.
"Studies have shown that if you vaccinate every single healthcare worker in a hospital, it doesn't decrease the numbers of cases of flu at all ... zero decrease," says Dr. Brownstein.
Dr. Brownstein trusts the information provided by the non-profit Cochrane Collaboration which summarizes healthcare studies, examining the way they are conducted and analyzed. "They don't take Big Pharma money." A review of 51 studies by the Cochrane group found that there was no evidence that flu shots prevented flu in children 6 to 24 months of age any more than a placebo.
In 2010, the Cochrane group analyzed four randomized controlled trials and one cohort study (a type of observational study) to determine whether the vaccination of hospital personnel had any effect on the incidence of laboratory-proven flu, pneumonia, admissions to the hospital, and death from pneumonia. "There is insufficient evidence to support the vaccination of health care workers as a measure to protect older patients from influenza," they concluded.
In addition, a study presented at a meeting of the American Thoracic Society found that not only did flu shots not prevent health problems in asthmatic children, those who got the vaccine were three times more likely to be hospitalized than children who didn't get the vaccine.
"The flu vaccine was developed in the 1970s and promoted to prevent death from the flu in the most vulnerable people in the population, the sick and elderly," says Dr. Brownstein. "But the same number of people die from the flu now as in the 1970s. There has been no decrease in deaths even though more and more people are getting the vaccine. And the elderly don't respond to it because their immune systems don't function well.
"A Cochrane Review of 50 studies with over 70,000 adults found that when the vaccine was poorly matched for the circulating influenza virus — which is usually the case — 100 people need to be vaccinated to prevent one case of the flu," says Dr. Brownstein.
"In other words, the flu vaccine had a 99 percent failure rate — 99 out of 100 patients received no benefit from the vaccine. When the vaccine matched the circulating viral strain, 33 patients had to be vaccinated to prevent one case of the flu — a 96 percent failure rate since 32 of 33 subjects received no benefit."
The latest study to defend flu vaccines made headlines last month when a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Vanderbilt university admitted that the vaccine was less effective in seniors, but still advised vaccination and touted a 77 percent reduced risk in hospitalizations among those who had been vaccinated. But a reading of the actual study revealed that only 17 people had been vaccinated.
"That's much too small to make any judgment," said Dr. Brownstein. "Furthermore, the group that wasn't vaccinated smoked more than the vaccinated group. No wonder they did worse."
The portion of the population that may receive some benefit are younger adults, says Dr. Brownstein. "Some studies show a 30 percent decrease in flu in younger people who get the vaccine, but some studies show there's no benefit even for them.
"As a population, the flu vaccine has never been shown to decrease deaths or decrease the incidence of flu," he says.
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"There is no reason to force mandatory flu vaccines on healthcare workers," he says. "It's a ridiculous idea that should be put in the trash bin. It's just terrible.
"I feel sorry for hospital workers," he said. "They are caught between a rock and a hard place, and they will be fired if they don't comply. It might be different if they had a good study that showed that vaccinating hospital workers reduced the incidence of flu, but they don't.
"It's a sad day when something like this can happen," says Dr. Brownstein. "No one should be forced to get a flu shot."
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