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Why Flu Shots Don’t Work

Flu Shots


Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, October 23, 2008

Flu Shots For The Elderly Are Ineffective

(OMNS, October 23, 2008) Have the elderly people in your family missed their flu shot? If so, they may have made the right decision. The New York Times recently reported that "A growing number of immunologists and epidemiologists say the vaccine probably does not work very well for people over 70," and that previous studies may have shown "not any actual protection against the flu virus but a fundamental difference between the kinds of people who get vaccines and those who do not . . . simply because they went to the doctor more often." (1)

Influenza vaccination has been widely touted even though evidence of effectiveness is lacking. One large scientific review looked at 40 years' worth of influenza vaccine studies. It found that flu shots were ineffective for elderly persons living in the community, and flu shots were "non-significant against influenza" for elderly living in group homes. (2) The authors of another major review "found no correlation between vaccine coverage and influenza-like-illness attack rate." (3) Author Dr. Thomas Jefferson said, "The vaccine doesn't work very well at all. Vaccines are being used as an ideological weapon. What you see every year as the flu is caused by 200 or 300 different agents with a vaccine against two of them. That is simply nonsense." (4) Indeed, he commented, "What you see is that marketing rules the response to influenza, and scientific evidence comes fourth or fifth." (5)

Some still claim that flu vaccinations, even though they do not prevent the flu, may help prevent more serious complications such as pneumonia, so dreaded and so often deadly for the elderly. But the authors of the study discussed in the NY Times article specifically noted that "influenza vaccination was not associated with a reduced risk of community-acquired pneumonia." (6)

As with all immunizations, flu shots can have harmful side effects. Vaccines may contain, among other things, ingredients such as mercury and aluminum, which are widely regarded as toxic. The elderly are more likely to be injured by, or even die from, flu vaccine side effects. Such incidents may remain unreported by hospitals or physicians. One man, aged 76, had a flu shot and immediately had to be hospitalized for a week. When family members suggested to the hospital staff and physicians that it was probably a reaction to the shot, their views were disregarded. Two years later the man had another flu shot, and was promptly hospitalized a second time. Family members once again said it was a reaction to the flu shot. The hospital said it was a low-grade infection, probably a bladder infection. The man died.

There are indications that vaccination side effects are underreported. The US Food and Drug Administration's Vaccine Adverse Effect Reporting System receives around 11,000 serious adverse reaction reports each year, mostly from doctors. (7) FDA states that "VAERS tracks serious vaccine reactions, not common fevers and soreness from shots. Serious reactions include death, life-threatening illness, hospitalization, and disability resulting from a vaccine." (8) However, FDA admits that they probably receive reports for only about 10 percent of all adverse vaccine reactions. (9) The National Vaccine Information Center estimates the reporting percentage to be far lower, perhaps under 3 percent. (10)

The exact contents of each year's flu shot is an educated guess. Sometimes this guess is wrong, as it was for 2008, where the vaccine "doesn't match two of the three main types of flu bugs now in circulation. . . . The predominant type A flu virus this year is the H3N2 strain; 87% are the "Brisbane" strain. And 93% of this year's type B flu bugs are from the "Yamagata" lineage. The current flu vaccine's H3N2 component is the "Wisconsin" strain; the type B component is from the "Victoria" lineage." (11) Even when the guess is correct, flu viruses frequently mutate and become resistant all over again.

The flu vaccine, notes the NY Times, has not been double-blind, placebo-control tested. Faith in vaccination appears to be greater than the scientific evidence to justify vaccination. Senior citizens already take far more medications than any other segment of the population. The elderly have weaker immune systems. The risk of immunization adverse effects rises accordingly. Increased side effect danger, along with low effectiveness, is a bad combination.

Is their an available alternative? Yes, there may be: give the elderly more nutrients, rather than more needles. Older people often have inadequate diets. With ageing and illness, their bodies' need for vital nutrients goes up, yet frequently their intake actually goes down.

Nutritional supplements help fight the flu. Vitamins and minerals have been shown to significantly reduce incidence and duration of influenza. This was already known back when many of today's elderly were still middle-aged. 32 years ago, twice Nobel-Prize winner Linus Pauling reviewed the nutritional literature and determined that high doses of vitamin C reduce the frequency and shorten the severity of influenza. (12) Orthomolecular (nutritional) physicians have repeatedly confirmed this. Robert F. Cathcart, MD, successfully treated thousands of viral-illness patients with massive doses of vitamin C. (13) Vitamin D also increases resistance to influenza (14), as do the minerals selenium and zinc. (15)

With good nutrition bolstered with supplemental vitamin and mineral intake, the human body's natural defenses are strengthened and can rapidly adapt to resist new flu strains. Clinical evidence indicates that nutrition is more significant that vaccination. Malnutrition is far more dangerous than not getting vaccinated.

No, there is not a vaccination for every illness. It might be nice if there were, but no shot can make up for poor nutrition.

Over-reliance on vaccinating the elderly ignores their fundamental problems of poor diet and vitamin/mineral deficiencies. These are underlying reasons for a susceptible immune system. Supplemental nutrition is the "other" immune system booster. It is time to use it.


(1) Goodman B. Doubts grow over flu vaccine in elderly. September 2, 2008.

(2) Rivetti D, Jefferson T, Thomas R et al. Vaccines for preventing influenza in the elderly. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2006 Jul 19;3:CD004876.

(3) Jefferson T, Rivetti D, Rivetti A et al. Efficacy and effectiveness of influenza vaccines in elderly people: a systematic review. Lancet. 2005 Oct 1;366(9492):1165-74.

(4) Gardner A. Flu vaccine only mildly effective in elderly. HealthDay Reporter, Sept 21, 2005.

(5) Rosenthal E. Flu vaccination and treatment fall far short. International Herald Tribune, September 22, 2005.

(6) Jackson ML, Nelson JC, Weiss NS, Neuzil KM, Barlow W, Jackson LA. Influenza vaccination and risk of community-acquired pneumonia in immunocompetent elderly people: a population-based, nested case-control study. Lancet. 2008 Aug 2;372(9636):398-405.

(7) National Technical Information Service, Springfield, VA 22161, 703-487-4650, 703-487-4600.


(9) KM Severyn in the Dayton Daily News, May 28, 1993 cited at

(10) "Investigative Report on the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System." National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), 512 Maple Ave. W. #206, Vienna, VA 22180.

(11) DeNoon DJ. Most influenza strains do not match current vaccine. February 11, 2008. Also: Joe Bresee, MD, chief, epidemiology and prevention branch, CDC Influenza Division, Atlanta. CDC news conference, Feb. 8, 2008.

(12) Pauling L. Vitamin C, the Common Cold, and the Flu. Freeman, 1976.

(13) Cathcart RF. Vitamin C, titrating to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Med Hypotheses. 1981 Nov;7(11):1359-76.

(14) Cannell JJ, Vieth R, Umhau JC, Holick MF, Grant WB, Madronich S, Garland CF, Giovannucci E. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiol Infect. 2006. Dec;134(6):1129-40.

(15) Girodon F, Galan P, Monget AL et al. Impact of trace elements and vitamin supplementation on immunity and infections in institutionalized elderly patients: a randomized controlled trial. MIN. VIT. AOX. geriatric network. Arch Intern Med. 1999 Apr 12;159(7):748-54.

For more information:

Video questioning influenza vaccine:
A humorous look at flu vaccine:

For further reading:

Miller NZ. Vaccine Safety Manual for Concerned Families and Health Practitioners: Guide to Immunization Risks and Protection. New Atlantean Press, 2008. ISBN-10: 1881217353; ISBN-13: 978-1881217350. Also: Miller NZ. Vaccines: Are They Really Safe and Effective. New Atlantean Press; Revised Updated Edition, 2008. ISBN-10: 1881217302; ISBN-13: 978-1881217305.


Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, March 19, 2008

Vitamins Reduce the Duration and Severity of Influenza

(OMNS, March 19, 2008) Vitamins fight the flu by boosting the body’s own immune response and by accelerating healing. Individuals can be better prepared for an influenza epidemic by learning how to use vitamin supplements to fight off ordinary respiratory infections. The most important vitamins are vitamins C, D, niacin, and thiamine.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D has known anti-viral properties [1] and has been directly associated with fighting influenza in a recent scientific review. [2] Extensive evidence now shows that vitamin D serves as an important regulator of immune system responses. [3] The most dramatic evidence is a recent double-blind trial proving that vitamin D prevents cancers [4], supported by two recent epidemiological studies. [5,6] Vitamin D has been part of a supplement combination proven effective against HIV in a recent double-blind trial. [7]

During a viral infection, the body can draw on vitamin D stored in the body to supply the increased needs of the immune system. The withdrawn supplies of vitamin D are quickly replenished with 4,000 to 10,000 IU/day doses for a few days. Due to biochemical individuality, we recommend vitamin D blood testing as a routine part of a yearly physical exam.

Niacin has known anti-viral properties. The most persuasive evidence comes from recent work with HIV patients.[8-12] Niacin is required for cells to generate the energy they use to perform virtually all biological functions.

Niacin’s effectiveness fighting viruses may have to do with accelerating wound healing as well as improving immunity. Accelerating tissue repair limits collateral damage and minimizes the risk of secondary infection. Niacin has been proven to promote healing of damaged skin in double-blind trials. [13] Other recent findings (niacin reduces injury to the brain after strokes and reduces inflammation in general) also provide evidence of healing. [14,15]

Niacin, 500 to 2,000 mg/day in divided doses, is generally well tolerated during periods when the immune system is fighting viral infections. One takes such doses for several days starting at the onset of a viral infection. Dividing the dose reduces flushing. Using "no-flush" form niacin (inositol hexaniacinate) eliminates the flushing side effect.

Vitamin C
Strong evidence shows that high doses of vitamin C prevent common colds and reduce a cold’s severity and duration. [16] Given the similarities between cold and influenza viruses, the scientific case for treating influenza with vitamin C has been investigated and shown to have merit. [17] Fighting influenza with vitamin C has been tested in the clinical setting and reported to be effective at very high doses. [18, 19]

Extraordinary quantities of vitamin C, between 20,000 and 100,000 mg/day, are surprisingly well tolerated during periods when the immune system is fighting viral infections. These large daily amounts are best taken divided up into as many doses per day as possible, beginning immediately at the first sign of a viral infection. To achieve maximum effect it is necessary to maintain high concentrations of vitamin C in the body. Large, very frequent oral intake of vitamin C can maintain much higher blood plasma concentrations of vitamin C than is generally believed. [16, 19, 20]

Thiamine (Vitamin B1)
Two items of recent scientific research have shown that the B-vitamin thiamine has anti-viral properties. TTFD, one of the fat-soluble forms of thiamine, was recently proven to be a potent inhibitor of HIV virus replication [21]. Thiamine was shown to be an effective treatment for chronic hepatitis B. [22]

Influenza killed more people in the two years following World War I than all soldiers killed on both sides in four years of machine-gun warfare. Influenza has been and remains a serious threat to human health. There is a great deal of public concern about the possibility of a repeat of the 1918 influenza pandemic. Vitamin C, niacin, vitamin D, and thiamine act together to strengthen the immune system, and to optimize health. Intelligent, high-dose vitamin supplement use can do much to eliminate the risk of death and disability for individuals with average health, and dramatically reduce the hospitalization and death rates amongst the most vulnerable members of the population.



[2] Cannell JJ et al. Epidemic influenza and vitamin D. Epidemiology and Infection. 2006. Dec;134(6):1129-40. Free access to full text paper at

[3] Tavera-Mendoza LE, White JH. Cell defenses and the sunshine vitamin. Scientific American, November 2007, 62-72.

[4] Lappe JM et al. Vitamin D and calcium supplementation reduces cancer risk: results of a randomized trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007 Jun;85(6):1586-91.

[5] Abbas S, et al. Serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D and risk of postmenopausal breast cancer - results of a large case-control study. Carcinogenesis. 2008 Jan;29(1):93-9.

[6] Freedman DM et al. Prospective study of serum vitamin D and cancer mortality in the United States. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2007. Nov 7;99(21):1594-602.

[7] Kaiser JD et al. Micronutrient supplementation increases CD4 count in HIV-infected individuals on highly active antiretroviral therapy: A prospective, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial. Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 2006. 42(5), 523-528. "Micronutrient supplementation can significantly improve CD4 cell count reconstitution in HIV-infected patients. . . "

[8] Murray MF. Niacin as a potential AIDS preventive factor. Medical Hypotheses, 1999. 53(5), 375-379.

[9] Murray MF, Langan M, MacGregor RR. Increased plasma tryptophan in HIV-infected patients treated with pharmacologic doses of nicotinamide. Nutrition (NY), 2001. 17(7/8), 654-656.

[10] Murray MF. Treatment of retrovirus induced derangements with niacin compounds. The Foundation for Innovative Therapies, Inc., USA, 2006. 9 p. US 7012086.

[11] Pero RW. A method for increasing tryptophan and nicotinamide levels in vivo, and therapeutic and monitoring methods. Lynpete Trading 6 Pty., Ltd. Trading as Genetic Health Enterprises, S. Afr. PCT Int. Appl. 2008, 73pp. WO 2008008837 A2 20080117

[12] Dube MP et al. Safety and efficacy of extended-release niacin for the treatment of dyslipidaemia in patients with HIV infection: AIDS clinical trials group study A5148. Antiviral Therapy, 2006. 11(8), 1081-1089. "(D)doses up to 2,000 mg daily was safe, well-tolerated and efficacious in HIV-infected subjects. . . "


[14] Maynard KI. Natural neuroprotectants after stroke. Science & Medicine, 2002. 8(5), 258-267.

[15] Yu, Bi-lian; Zhao, Shui-ping. Anti-inflammatory effect is an important property of niacin on atherosclerosis beyond its lipid-altering effects. Medical Hypotheses, 2007. 69(1), 90-94.

[16] Hickey S, Roberts H. Ascorbate: The science of vitamin C. 2004. Lulu Press. ISBN 1-4116-0724-4. Reviewed at


[18] Ely JT. Ascorbic acid role in containment of the world avian flu pandemic. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2007. 232(7), 847-851.

[19] Cathcart RF. Vitamin C, titrating to bowel tolerance, anascorbemia, and acute induced scurvy. Med Hypotheses. 1981 Nov;7(11):1359-76. Free access to full text paper at See also: Cathcart RF. The third face of vitamin C. Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine, 7:4;197-200, 1993. Free access at or

Other Cathcart papers posted at and

[20] Duconge J et al. Pharmacokinetics of vitamin C: insights into the oral and intravenous administration of ascorbate. PR Health Sciences Journal, 2008. 27:1, March.

[21] Shoji, Shozo et al. Thiamine disulfide as a potent inhibitor of human immunodeficiency virus (type-1) production. Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, 1994. 205(1), 967-75. "The results suggest that thiamine disulfide may be important for AIDS chemotherapy."

[22] Wallace AE, Weeks WB. Thiamine treatment of chronic hepatitis B infection. American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2001. 96(3), 864-868.

The peer-reviewed Orthomolecular Medicine News Service is a non-profit and non-commercial informational resource.

Editorial Review Board:

Damien Downing, M.D.
Harold D. Foster, Ph.D.
Steve Hickey, Ph.D.
Abram Hoffer, M.D., Ph.D.
James A. Jackson, PhD
Bo H. Jonsson, MD, Ph.D
Thomas Levy, M.D., J.D.
Erik Paterson, M.D.
Gert E. Shuitemaker, Ph.D.

Erik Paterson, M.D.

Andrew W. Saul, Ph.D., Editor.  


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