Recently, a chiropractor indicated that he thought being immunized against the flu was not a wise choice because the flu shot only helped about 56 percent of the people it was given to and the risk of developing Gillian-Barre syndrome (GBS). I felt compelled to follow-up with some facts addressing this misinformation.
In order to prevent disease out breaks and control a disease you need to get around a 90 percent efficacy and vaccination rate; neither of which occurs with the flu vaccine. However, it has been shown that the flu immunization does help reduce the size of the outbreak and spread of the flu. Last year, 167 children died in the U.S. from flu related consequences, many with no chronic illnesses. While nothing can ease the pain of loss for their families, it is worthwhile to note that approximately another 150 families did not suffer the same loss, because of immunization. The vaccine is more effective in younger than older people, but does help both groups; so again vaccinating as many people as possible helps prevent the spread to people at risk. Moreover, it does provide benefit if the child does not get the flu, they will not pass it to their grandparents or other people. Vaccines are becoming progressively better with new technologies.
The writer recommended that you should not get the flu vaccine because of the risk for GBS. There is no proof that the modern flu vaccine causes GBS per the Centers for Disease Control. During the Swine flu incident in the 1970s there was a 1:100,000 risk of GBS, felt to be because the vaccine was rushed and did not go through the tests and purification of current vaccines. We did not see an increase of GBS from the use of H1N1 vaccine. GBS can occur from influenza infections and from other viral respiratory and GI illnesses, without any vaccination being involved. Some facts: (1) 200,000 people a year are hospitalized; and (2) 3,000 to 4,000 die each year in the U.S. The suggestion that reducing these numbers because of a supposed risk of Gillian-Barre or the vaccine "only" has limited efficacy is not logical, in my opinion. If you notice an adverse reaction after an immunization please contact you physician immediately. So please protect yourself and your family. The benefits of vaccination far outweigh the risk.
Richard E. Cain, MD