Wednesday, August 1, 2012

UK Going to Vaccinate 1 Million Kids a Year for Flu to Save 1 / Medical News Today

From MedicalNewsToday comes the following misleading information on the dramatic benefits of flu vaccine for kids: 
The UK is set to become the first country in the world to provide all children free of charge with a comprehensive flu vaccination program... 
Once the program is up and running, it will cost the government over £100 million annually, and it will provide cover against flu to up to nine million children. Children will be vaccinated during a six to eight week period due to the nature of the flu season.
A moderate uptake in vaccinations would result in a reduction of around 40% in those affected, which would translate to at least 11,000 fewer hospitalizations in addition to saving around 2,000 lives... 
The program will use a nasal spray vaccine with an excellent safety profile that has been available in the U.S. for approximately 10 years. Even though last year flu levels were low and healthy children are least likely to suffer complications if they acquire the flu, the fact that children have close contact with each other means that they represent a high risk in transmitting the virus on to other, more vulnerable people, such as babies and the elderly.
But where is the UK going to find the 2,000 people being saved?  According to the UK National Health Service in 2004, only 22 deaths in UK children per year are due to flu.

If the vaccine saves 40% of them, as claimed, it would save 9 children's lives per year.  

At 9 children saved per year, it would take 200 years of vaccinating every kid to save 2,000.  

But perhaps vaccinating the children is supposed to be saving the elderly, instead.  More child vaccinations may translate to fewer deaths in elders, so it has been postulated.

According to a 2010 NY Times article, only two studies (one from 1968) provide evidence that vaccinating children prevents flu in adults.  I previously blogged about a study that showed no adult protection from vaccinating children.  

The question of whether and how much child vaccinations help adults remains unanswered.  The question of whether it is ethical to vaccinate children to protect an entirely different demographic group has not even been discussed.  Have parents been told this is the driver for vaccinations?


Is the UK going to vaccinate 9 million children per year for over 100 million pounds annually to save 9 children, not 2,000? 

And how many side effects and deaths might result from the flu vaccines, which are not fully tested in advance of use, to balance against the one-in-a-million children saved? 

Or is the UK is going to vaccinate 9 million children per year for flu based on two small studies performed 40 years apart, claiming an adult benefit?

Or is the UK going to vaccinate 9 million children for 100 million pounds per year in order to transfer money from the public coffers to the pharmaceutical friends of politicians?

You make the call.  


Unknown said...

Are there even studies showing the vaccination prevents one from spreading the disease?

Is there data showing that IF they guess right and get the correct strains in the vaccine, and IF the strains floating around don't mutate, and a vaccinated person has subclinical response to the virus (instead of some bacteria, which is confused with influenza some 85% of the time), that it cannot replicate enough to be passed onto others?

I figure you have the science and research background to answer this one. Great find on the vaccination of one demographic for another.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Also, I thought I would quibble with your math a bit. I believe it would 8.8 children per year, meaning only 8 would be saved each year, since it can't save 0.8 persons per year. Thus, it would take 250 years to achieve a health benefit.

Anonymous said...

Just a follow up on this one...were you able to look more into the questions in my first comment? I am interested in the answer or even your critical thinking about the matter.

Meryl Nass, M.D. said...

I did not answer your question because there are so many studies with different types of results.

I have tried to show interesting research findings in this blog, including a number of recent papers that show those who received flu vaccinations in a previous year are more likely to develop a clinical case of flu in a later year.

Do flu vaccinations stop the "spread" of flu? If they do not reduce the number of clinical cases, some would say they do not stop spread. But possibly they reduce spread to others while increasing the risk to the vaccinee. It isn't clear.

In any event, I hope most parents want evidence that vaccination helps their child before agreeing to have their child vaccinated.

In Japan, schoolchild vaccinations were stopped decades ago due to lack of clear benefit and possible side effects.