July 22, 2014

Flu Vaccines Offer No Benefit: Cochrane Review of Evidence

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vaccines Flu Vaccines Offer No Benefit: Cochrane Review of Evidence

by Vera Sharav
Alliance for Human Research Protection

This is the season that many Americans are advised-even pressured–to get flu shots. Indeed, flu shots are being hawked at every drug store chain…

But what does the evidence show about the effectiveness of the flu vaccine when vaccinated and unvaccinated groups are compared ?

Well, the negative finding of a comprehensive review of 50 published reports by the highly credible Cochrane Collaboration should discourage healthy people from getting a flu shot:

“The results of this review seem to discourage the utilisation of vaccination against influenza in healthy adults as a routine public health measure.

As healthy adults have a low risk of complications due to respiratory disease, the use of the vaccine may be only advised as an individual protection measure against symptoms in specific cases.”

Specifically, the EVIDENCE REFUTES the claims that the flu vaccine prevents the flu; it refutes the claim that it prevents viral transmission in healthy adults;  and it refutes the claim that the vaccine prevents complications and “saves lives.”

The EVIDENCE shows little or no benefit for influenza vaccinations.

“This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.”

Repeat:

“…industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies…”

“…reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin…”

“…there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions…”

Most assuredly, the “content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding”!

So, it would be prudent to be highly skeptical about the pronouncements and recommendations of public health officials about the value or necessity of various vaccines. There are hidden financial conflicts of interest.

See, Part III of AHRP’s examination of America’s Healthcare Crisis  http://www.ahrp.org/cms/content/view/873/9/ with links to a detailed analysis of the intricate web of financial conflicts of interest that dominate public health vaccine policies.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

See: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD001269.pub4/abstract

Vaccines for preventing influenza in healthy adults
Tom Jefferson, Carlo Di Pietrantonj, Alessandro Rivetti, Ghada A Bawazeer, Lubna A Al-Ansary,  Eliana Ferroni  

Published Online: 7 JUL 2010

We included 50 reports. Forty (59 sub-studies) were clinical trials of over 70,000 people. Eight were comparative non-RCTs and assessed serious harms. Two were reports of harms which could not be introduced in the data analysis. In the relatively uncommon circumstance of vaccine matching the viral circulating strain and high circulation, 4% of unvaccinated people versus 1% of vaccinated people developed influenza symptoms (risk difference (RD) 3%, 95% confidence interval (CI) 2% to 5%). The corresponding figures for poor vaccine matching were 2% and 1% (RD 1, 95% CI 0% to 3%). These differences were not likely to be due to chance. Vaccination had a modest effect on time off work and had no effect on hospital admissions or complication rates. Inactivated vaccines caused local harms and an estimated 1.6 additional cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome per million vaccinations. The harms evidence base is limited.

Authors’ conclusions

Influenza vaccines have a modest effect in reducing influenza symptoms and working days lost. There is no evidence that they affect complications, such as pneumonia, or transmission.

WARNING:
This review includes 15 out of 36 trials funded by industry (four had no funding declaration). An earlier systematic review of 274 influenza vaccine studies published up to 2007 found industry funded studies were published in more prestigious journals and cited more than other studies independently from methodological quality and size. Studies funded from public sources were significantly less likely to report conclusions favorable to the vaccines. The review showed that reliable evidence on influenza vaccines is thin but there is evidence of widespread manipulation of conclusions and spurious notoriety of the studies. The content and conclusions of this review should be interpreted in light of this finding.

Plain language summary

Over 200 viruses cause influenza and influenza-like illness which produce the same symptoms (fever, headache, aches and pains, cough and runny noses). Without laboratory tests, doctors cannot tell the two illnesses apart. Both last for days and rarely lead to death or serious illness. At best, vaccines might be effective against only influenza A and B, which represent about 10% of all circulating viruses. Each year, the World Health Organization recommends which viral strains should be included in vaccinations for the forthcoming season.Authors of this review assessed all trials that compared vaccinated people with unvaccinated people. The combined results of these trials showed that under ideal conditions (vaccine completely matching circulating viral configuration) 33 healthy adults need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. In average conditions (partially matching vaccine) 100 people need to be vaccinated to avoid one set of influenza symptoms. Vaccine use did not affect the number of people hospitalised or working days lost but caused one case of Guillian-Barré syndrome (a major neurological condition leading to paralysis) for every one million vaccinations. Fifteen of the 36 trials were funded by vaccine companies and four had no funding declaration.

Our results may be an optimistic estimate because company-sponsored influenza vaccines trials tend to produce results favorable to their products and some of the evidence comes from trials carried out in ideal viral circulation and matching conditions and because the harms evidence base is limited.

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