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Flu Vaccination, Yes Or No?

Flu Vaccination, Yes Or No?

Why get the flu vaccination? Well it’s obvious stupid. It prevents the flu, and even if you get the flu it’ll keep you from dying from it. And a lot of people die from the flu every winter. Right? Well, no. Let me explain. But before I do (for the people who aren’t going to take the time to read all this) consider the following facts before you get your vaccination.

Only 39% of health providers get the flu vaccination.

According to the Center For Disease Control, there are only 200-400 influenza related deaths each year (in the entire United States).

“It’s time to be more open about the flu vaccine and its lack of protection for the elderly”, according to Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at a national conference in April, 2010. Osterholm went on to say that he “Supports attempts to create a new, effective vaccine.”

About 90 percent of flu deaths during flu season from 1976 to 2007 occurred in people over age 65.

So let me think this through clearly. According to the Center For Disease Control (the government agency in charge of reporting disease statistics) only 200-400 influenza related deaths occur each year in the United States. Then Michael Osterholm, a nationally recognized epidemiologist, says its time to admit (be more open) about the fact that the flu vaccine doesn’t protect the elderly. And in addition most of the 200-400 flu death’s each year occur in the elderly. What is going on? And besides, why aren’t more than 39% of health care workers getting the flu vaccine each year?

Why the hysteria over the flu each winter when there are so few deaths from the flu each year? I have only pieced together bits of the story, but it reads as well as a detective novel.

The media commonly reports that there are about 36,000 deaths each year due to the flu. Yet the CDC estimates that actual deaths from the flu are about 200-400 yearly. The CDC also says that it’s somewhat meaningless to give a yearly average. That’s because the numbers can change dramatically year to year. Where does the 36,000 deaths figure come from? In reporting the cause of death doctors have a variety of choices. One choice is “influenza AND pneumonia”. That is patients who die from influenza are lumped in with patients who die from pneumonia. While influenza may result in pneumonia, there are many deaths due to pneumonia that have nothing to do with the flu. And you guessed it, the total number of deaths reported from “influenza and pneumonia” is about 36,000 per year. This distinction would take too much air time in our world of fast news and sound bites, so the media errantly reports 36,000 flu deaths each year. That would be far scarier than the 200-400 annual deaths estimated by the CDC.

The population of the United States in 2009 was estimated at 307,006,550 according to the US Census. In 2007 there were 2,423,712 reported deaths in the United States. If the number of flu deaths that year were at the high end of the CDC’s estimate or 400 flu deaths that year, that would made 0.0165% of the death’s that year due to the flu.