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Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Effectiveness

Friday, November 24, 2017

Recognition and neutralization of influenza virus by the immune system has been a subject of extensive research, due to its profound implications for vaccine design.

An October 2017 study conducted at Scripps Research Institute was published in PLOS Pathogens, one of the open access official Public Library of Science journals that address all areas of science and medicine. The study article is titled "A structural explanation for the low effectiveness of the seasonal influenza H3N2 vaccine."

Despite the first commercial influenza vaccines being approved in the US more than 70 years ago, complete and broad protection from influenza vaccine has remained out of reach, and in the past decade the effectiveness of the seasonal vaccine against H3N2 viruses has been particularly low, with an effective rate of 33 percent, while the pre-2009 influenza H1N1 vaccine effectiveness rate was estimated to be 67 percent.

According to the CDC, "The effectiveness of the flu vaccine can range widely from season to season, and vary depending on who is being vaccinated. At least two factors play an important role in determining the likelihood that flu vaccine will protect a person from flu illness: the age and health of the person being vaccinated and the match between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against, and the flu viruses spreading in the community."


The PLOS article abstract reports that the effectiveness of this annual influenza vaccine is a concern for global public health, given that for some people, flu shots could possibly weaken immunity in subsequent years following immunization. 

Given the information above, risk vs.reward now becomes a more important flu vaccine health care issue, as well as ongoing concern for many, particularly for higher risk older people, is the fact that flu shots have never been subjected to double-masked, placebo-controlled studies. 


The PLOS study authors also report "a major cause for flu vaccine lack of effectiveness has been attributed to the egg-based vaccine production process. Substitutions on the haemagglutinin glycoprotein (HA) often arise during virus passaging that change its antigenicity and hence vaccine effectiveness.”

The summary suggests that it is common to use chicken eggs for culturing clinical isolates and for large-scale production of vaccines. However, these influenza viruses often mutate to adapt to being grown in chicken eggs, which can influence antigenicity and vaccine effectiveness.

Given this information, it seems reasonable for the FDA to seriously consider requiring that the vaccine industry change its production practices.

Ellen Troyer with Spencer Thornton, MD, David Amess and the Biosyntrx staff

PEARL:  It's being vaccine-industry advertised that "flu can be fatal, particularly for seniors, 90 percent of flu-related deaths occur in people age 65 or older" therefore, reports such as the one just published in PLOS Pathogens suggesting flu shots could possibly weaken immunity in subsequent years following immunization should be taken seriously.

The CDC reports that the 2017-2018 flu vaccines protect against H1N1, H3N2-live virus, and B/Victoria lineage virus. A four-component vaccine option also protects against a second lineage of B viruses including B/Yamagata lineage virus, which is the CDC recommendation. 

For your safety, consider asking to read the package insert's nonclinical toxicology section of the flu vaccine you are scheduled to receive and doing a bit of research yourself, if any of the ingredients seem unreasonable. Always discuss serious concerns you may have with your prescribing physician or other health care professionals. 

The Biosyntrx founders, staff, and scientific advisory board members also strongly recommend paying strict attention to proper immune system function during flu season that is frequently dependent on full-spectrum nutrient-intake support, stress management, daily exercise, and adequate sleep.