Is it time to wash your hands of the flu vaccine?

The Good Life Letter 

21st October 2016

There was a huge queue outside my doctor’s surgery last week.

Somewhere close to fifty people were standing around in the street waiting their turn to enter through the doors and I can only assume there was a similar number inside.

When I got home I mentioned to Lara that there must be something good happening that we were missing out on.

“No you big fool, it’s the older folk getting their flu jabs,” she told me. “In a few years we’ll be eligible to join them.”

“It will be a dark day when I let the good doctor loose with his potions on me!” I harrumphed and scuttled off to my office.

The thing is that until I saw the number of folk clustering at the surgery door I hadn’t realised just how many people this affected – maybe you are one of those who have a yearly jab?

I know that the influenza virus is a potentially fatal creature, and that for those who are immunocompromised or in poor health due to major conditions such as diabetes then the risk of a serious infection is greatly increased.

But surely there were more people in that queue than those represented by a heightened risk factor?

Is it just the case that as soon as you hit an age you get the shot no matter what – and does it do you any good?
Well not if one of the experts who has been reviewing the findings from 75 of the most recently published studies.

Tom Jefferson, the lead author of the review says that many of these industry sponsored trials show too much bias in their results, adding that he feels “Influenza vaccines are about marketing and not science.”

Jefferson also believes that the evidence of harm may be under reported because of a lack of standardised safety-outcome data. This means that for the elderly and even the children who undergo regular vaccination we simply don’t know whether we are doing harm or good.

Add into this the fact that last year the vaccine itself was almost useless as it didn’t cover the dominant strain of flu which presented over the winter – even the NHS says only 3% of those treated would have benefited.

Doesn’t fill you with too much confidence does it?

The myths we need to avoid

I’m not a fan of this type of mass vaccination just for the sake of it, but looking around the internet there are also a load of scare stories that really shouldn’t be believed.

The most repeated one is that people who have the jab then get flu symptoms as a result.

Put simply this can’t be the case as no live pathogens are used in the programme, and what many people get is the effect of their immune system dealing with the injection itself, hence the aching muscles and sore throat.

Others would have you believe that once you’ve had a vaccination you are sorted for the rest of your life, but the problem is that the flu virus mutates so much that each year’s version is different from the last – this was why it failed last year.

Tim Jefferson actually said that washing your hands regularly was more efficient at preventing the spread of flu than any vaccine in trials.

There are also a misguided few who think that flu can be treated better with antibiotics when you get it, but this is a complete fallacy as it is caused by a virus rather than a bacterium, thus the drugs don’t work.

Finally, the one scare story that should be taken seriously is that anyone with an intolerance or allergy to eggs should avoid the vaccine. This is true as the medium used to develop the serum is derived from egg whites.

So on the whole the science tends to suggest that there is little to fear from the procedure, but also there seems to be very little to gain as a result.

A bit like the statin debate it would appear that a massive programme of dosing the elderly population up with drugs is being done as a prophylactic rather than with a clear and justified strategy.

Which makes the drugs moguls very happy indeed – imagine being able to sell a nice profitable drug to huge numbers of people that don’t really need it.

A generation of pill poppers

This policy must be a significant contribution to the findings of a health study that found one in three over 75s were being given medications that were of no use to them.

Conducted for NHS Croydon the research showed that around £192,000 a year could be saved in that borough alone if a review of prescriptions was carried out. Multiplied nationwide the savings would run into millions of pounds.

Interestingly the drugs which were being oversubscribed were those that you would think the most important. These included warfarin for thinning blood, alendronic acid for osteoporosis and omeprazole for acid reflux – all shown to be completely ineffective in the patients who had been taking them.

In addition, the researchers called into question the over use of drugs for controlling cholesterol (those statins again) and others for lowering blood sugar.  In both cases the medications were affecting patients’ health adversely and by taking them off these drugs their health actually improved and they were able stop taking other drugs as well.

Bizarre isn’t it – these people were taking expensive medicines to control the symptoms being generated by other drugs that they didn’t even need!

A piece by Dr Mark Porter in the Times recently identified ten common drugs that are often not needed which included diabetes medication. He reported that one patient was given a diagnosis of dementia whilst on a diabetic programme, however they then discovered the patient’s confusion was due to overly lowered blood sugar, the drugs were stopped and the patient recovered.

Worth a chat with your own GP? If so wait until the queue for the flu jab has died down!

A light in the dark

And finally the answer to a plea from a reader on email recently.

Peter asked me why it was no longer possible to buy ‘old fashioned’ light bulbs that actually allowed him to see when he turned the light on. He reported that the new low energy bulbs gave off a sickly yellow light and took up to five minutes to get bright enough.

Well, the answer is those lovely people in government who want to save our natural resources think it’s a great idea to start messing around with our light bulbs rather than sorting their own wasteful actions out – hence a law prohibiting the sale of traditional filament bulbs.

But, good friends, as the nights are drawing in and the mornings too I have a solution for you that will gladden your hearts, ease your troubled minds and allow you to read the paper.

Since last year we have been stocking some amazingly bright bulbs (160W) that are also energy efficient.

They are available in bayonet or screw in styles and give off enough light to help those who suffer from the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder (SAD) as it is more commonly known.

See more clearly, save money and raise your spirits – click here for details

Yours, as always


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