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News Archives 3241-3260
Number Title Post Date
3241 Cervical Cancer Vaccine Blinds 16 Year-Old Girl 26/02/2010 14:20:11
3242 Spain Refuge - Deadly Incompetent British Social Services Strike Again 28/02/2010 17:43:20
3243 New Research Shows Infections Can Trigger Multiple Sclerosis 28/02/2010 17:47:20
3244 Flu Vaccines Cost A Fortune And Don't Work 28/02/2010 17:49:53
3245 Drug Wars - The Politics Of Big Business 28/02/2010 17:52:05
3246 One Click Stats - February 2010 28/02/2010 17:55:07
3247 Custodial Sentences For Data Protection Loose Lips 03/03/2010 09:01:10
3248 Should Police Be Required To Submit DNA Samples? 03/03/2010 09:06:17
3249 17 Year-Old Ryan Baldwin & Family - Medically Crucified By The State 03/03/2010 09:14:32
3250 California County Sues GlaxoSmithKline Over Avandia Drug 03/03/2010 09:20:27
3251 General Medical Council Refuses To Charge Dishonest Starstruck Surgeon 03/03/2010 09:24:01
3252 Vaccines To Be Jabbed Into UK Doctors By General Medical Council Order 03/03/2010 09:30:15
3253 Over 50% Of Parents Querying Vaccine Safety 03/03/2010 09:41:28
3254 Irish Health Minister Joins Pharma Swine Flu Flying Pigs Club 03/03/2010 09:48:33
3255 German High Court Rules Against Data Retention 06/03/2010 13:05:23
3256 Sir Alec Jeffreys - Strong Reservations Over Illegal DNA Retention 06/03/2010 13:11:02
3257 Black Voters Hold Election Power Over DNA Database 06/03/2010 13:15:35
3258 UK Social Services Vindictively Wreck Family Life 06/03/2010 13:21:26
3259 Vioxx Court Ruling Gives Hope For British Victims Denied Justice By Government 06/03/2010 13:41:01
3260 UK General Medical Council Refuses To Uphold Murdered Baby Peter's Human Rights 06/03/2010 13:44:19

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Flu Vaccines Cost A Fortune And Don't Work
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Feb. 27, 2010
Do Flu Vaccines Really Work? A Skeptic's View
By Eben Harrell


An elderly man receives a flu vaccine shot.
Larry Downing / Reuters / Corbis


In December, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched a public health campaign in the U.S. encouraging vulnerable patients — particularly the elderly — to "protect yourself and the ones you love against flu: GET VACCINATED!" At least one flu-vaccine researcher disagreed with the message: Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist with the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration, which has headquarters in Britain.

Jefferson and colleagues have published several systematic reviews of existing studies on the efficacy of influenza vaccines. Weighing the data, they conclude that there is insufficient evidence to indicate that flu vaccines reduce infection rates or mortality, even in the elderly. Jefferson, a former British army doctor now based in Rome, spoke with TIME about his quest to spur further research into flu vaccines.

TIME: On Feb. 16, the Cochrane Library published your updated review of all major studies on the efficacy of flu vaccines for the elderly, some of the results of which you believe to be preposterous. Can you explain?

Jefferson: We looked at studies on vaccines in the elderly and in health care workers who work with the elderly, and we found an implausible sequence of results. We have studies that claim up to 90% effectiveness against death from all causes [in inoculated patients compared with the non-vaccinated]. If you were to believe that evidence, you would believe that flu vaccine is effective against death not only from influenza, but also from heart attack, stroke, hypothermia, accidents and all other common causes of death among the elderly. That is quite clearly nonsense.

This is not to say that these and other studies, taken together, suggest that vaccines don't work for the elderly. The answer is a question mark. We don't know what protection, if any, vaccines offer. I don't think that's a bad thing. Uncertainty is the motor of science. We need large studies to find out.

TIME: Why do you think such studies have not been done?

Jefferson: I don't know. We've known for years that we needed proof one way or the other, and governments have not taken any notice of this. It's an extraordinary situation. (See how to prevent illness at any age.)

TIME: One argument I've heard is that it would be unethical to compare vaccines against a placebo because you would be withholding crucial treatment from patients. Do you agree?

Jefferson: No. We don't know these vaccines work, so you can't make that claim. But if you really find placebos to be unethical, then why don't you randomize against masks, hand-washing, gloves, distancing — public health measures that have proven to be effective?

TIME: You are a big fan of these so-called physical interventions. Why?

Jefferson: There is solid evidence that they work against all [flu viruses], not just specific strains [unlike the flu vaccine, as it is designed]. They are culturally acceptable and cheap, and they reduce transmission rates of other viruses too. A great American called Stephen Luby of the CDC has published a study from Karachi, Pakistan, that found that physical interventions are lifesavers. He should receive a Nobel Prize for his work, but I'm sure he never will.

TIME: Why do you think your reviews have not filtered down to policy makers?

Jefferson: In a separate study we looked at the science that policy makers use, and it's disturbing how large the gap is between policy and evidence. We looked at the World Health Organization, CDC and U.K., Australian and German authorities — they have what it is called a "citation bias." They cite some studies that support vaccines, but other studies that find no effect are left out. Most importantly, there is no critical appraisal of the methods. [Cochrane reviewers examine the methodology of all studies they include in their systematic reviews.] It's disturbing. I think with influenza there's a feeling in governments that "we have to do something." Well, you can do something: you can better promote cheap public-health measures such as hand washing. They work. (See the top 10 medical breakthroughs of 2009.)

TIME: Do you have trouble getting people to believe you?

Jefferson: There's no way that the Cochrane Collaboration can compete with governments. It's David versus Goliath. When Obama promotes vaccines, I have no chance. I can't take on Obama.

TIME: So what would you recommend that people who are over 65 do to protect themselves from flu?

Jefferson: If they want to base it on good evidence, they should wash their hands. I would also encourage them to write to their Congressman or Senator, asking them to put pressure on the U.S. government to run a proper trial and get an answer to whether these vaccines actually work.

TIME: Are you skeptical of the efficacy of all vaccines?

Jefferson: People always ask me if I am against other vaccines. I am not. I have five children. They have all been vaccinated against the major diseases as part of the standard childhood vaccination program. Those vaccines have strong evidence to back them up. I am not antivaccine. I am anti–poor evidence.

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Related Links:
* New Research Shows Annual Flu Vaccine Complete Waste Of Money
Jenny Hope, Daily Mail
* Influenza Vaccines: Poor Evidence for Effectiveness in Elderly
Press Release, Science Daily
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