Expert says flu vaccination programs a pointless waste of money

Published on October 30, 2006 at 1:18 PM · No Comments

According to a vaccine expert the millions spent on flu vaccination programs each year are a waste of time and money.

Dr. Tom Jefferson the coordinator of the vaccines field at the Cochrane Collaboration in Italy, which independently reviews healthcare provision, says the effectiveness of vaccines is compromised by the fact that influenza viruses mutated and varied from year to year.

Dr. Jefferson also says little clinical evidence exists that the vaccines had any effect on length of hospital stay, time taken off work or the likelihood of death in adults, regardless of whether people were otherwise healthy or already had conditions such as asthma and cystic fibrosis.

He says vaccines given to children under the age of two have the same effect as a placebo.

He believes his findings will make taxpayers on both sides of the Atlantic question whether the effort and expense are justified.

Jefferson arrived at this conclusion after reviewing all the studies done on the effects of inactivated vaccines (vaccines with dead viruses) and found that flu shot campaigns have either no effect, or a very negligible effect, on the number of hospitalizations, work/school time lost, complications from flu, or death from flu.

Jefferson says a massive gap exists between the benefits listed in policy documents and what the data actually indicates when it is rigorously assembled and evaluated.

There is he says a huge gap between vaccination campaign policy and evidence of its effectiveness.

According to Jefferson the reasons are unclear and may be complex but he suggests there is possibly potential confusion between influenza and influenza-like illness, and some surveillance systems report cases of influenza-like illness as influenza without further explanation.

This he says leads to a 'gross overestimation of the impact of influenza, unrealistic expectations of the performance of vaccines and spurious certainty of our ability to predict viral circulation and impact'.

Jefferson say there is an urgent need for a re-evaluation of such campaigns.

Other experts beg to differ and remain convinced that flu vaccines are the best way to protect against influenza, which is why countries around the world used them to protect vulnerable communities.

The injection is recommended for high-risk groups including the over-65s, people with respiratory conditions, such as asthma, and those with chronic conditions including diabetes.

According to the CDC, approximately 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with flu each year and about 36,000 people die.

The findings are published in The British Medical Journal (BMJ), October 28.

Posted in: Disease/Infection News

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