Barbara Loe Fisher is the cofounder and president of the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC). In this interview, we talk about influenza and pertussis vaccine failures, the business of vaccination and how you can stay healthy this flu season. On the upside, no vaccine exemptions in any state were lost this year, which makes it the third year in a row that we've been able to protect exemptions that allow you to follow your conscience or religious beliefs when it comes to vaccination.
Without doubt, the reason for this success is because so many of you have gotten involved, telling your legislators they must protect personal belief exemptions and the legal right to exercise vaccine freedom of choice. However, NVIC is predicting an onslaught of bills aimed at removing vaccine exemptions in 2019, so get ready to stand up for your rights!1
Annual Flu Vaccine Campaign Is Upon Us
This year, we timed Vaccine Awareness Week to coincide with the annual push for everyone to get a flu shot to make sure the subject is fresh in your mind. If you haven't seen it already, you'll soon be inundated with advertising and "friendly reminders" to get your annual flu shot.2
"What a lot of people don't stop to think about in the midst of all this advertising is that vaccinologists developed vaccines. Vaccinology is the science of vaccines. Vaccinologists do not understand how vaccines cause immunity in the body. They don't understand how an infection causes immunity in the body.
They've always had a problem with making vaccines that are effective and also safe, because they don't understand the biological mechanisms for vaccine injury and death. This is especially true for influenza vaccine, because influenza virus mutates rapidly. It's constantly changing.
There are different strains circulating every year. They have to guess which strains are going to be prevalent in any given year. The vaccine manufacturers then race to develop these annual seasonal flu vaccines.
But before we even talk about influenza vaccines, what a lot of people don't know is that the majority of respiratory illness out there every year is not due to type A or type B influenza. It's due to other types of respiratory viruses and bacterial infections that cause respiratory influenza-like illness," Fisher says.
Eighty Percent of Suspected Flu Cases Are Not Caused by Flu Virus
The most common respiratory illness would be the common cold, which is a rhinovirus and is not caused by influenza virus. As noted by Fisher, about 80 percent of suspected influenza case specimens sent for lab confirmation during the flu season turn out to be other viruses and bacteria — not type A or B influenza.3
"That's really important, because a lot of people think that when they get sick during the flu season, that they've got influenza," she says, "but most of the time they don't."
So, if most respiratory illnesses that occur during flu season are not caused by influenza A or B, just how important is the influenza vaccine, which protects only against these two types, and only three to four selected strains at that?
In the last 14 flu seasons, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has produced evidence showing the seasonal flu vaccine is less than 50 percent effective against circulating strains, more than half of the time.4
In the 2017 season, the vaccine was only 36 percent effective at best.5 More specifically, the CDC estimated last year's flu vaccine was 25 percent effective against the A(H3N2) virus; 67 percent effective against A(H1N1)pdm09 viruses and 42 percent effective against influenza B viruses. The majority of influenza last year was caused by the A(H3N2) virus, which was the least effective vaccine strain virus in the flu shot.