5 Headlines to Consider Regarding the Flu Shot

November 1, 2017

By Anna Varriano

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Many people I know who have never had the flu shot are wondering if they should get it this year, given reports that the 2017-2018 flu season could be severe, and that this year, more than ever, it’s important to get vaccinated asap. While I’ve never had a flu shot, everyone’s situation is different, and it’s a personal decision.  In this month’s tip, I thought it would be interesting to share a few flu-related news headlines I have seen lately and see if we can make some sense of them all.

Headline #1: Scientists have predicted a nasty flu season is headed for N. America (Global News)

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard that something nasty is coming to town. Some time ago, I read an article that listed the top 10 public health scares. I recall that it listed the Swine flu (H1N1) and the Bird Flu (H5N1).  Neither of these turned into the next Spanish Influenza as the media predicted. While the Swine flu claimed approximately 14,000 lives worldwide, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as an ordinary flu season which can claim approximately 250,000 – 500,000 lives every year. It is also important to note that many of these deaths occur among individuals who have other health issues and less-than-average living conditions.  So … stay calm and keep reading!

Headline #2: Flu vaccine is 48% effective this season [2016-2017], CDC says (CNN)

CDC stands for Centres for Disease Control and Prevention – an organization that “works 24/7 keeping America safe from health, safety, and security threats, both foreign and domestic”.

Does that headline sound good to you? Not sure? Well, consider that those exact same results can be stated this way: “Flu vaccine is 52% ineffective this season”. This is slightly worse than your odds of calling a coin toss and winning. Just saying. 48% effective doesn’t sound so good now; however, it’s better than the 19% effectiveness of the flu vaccine a few years ago! The CDC states that the effectiveness for flu shots have ranged from 10% to 60%. It’s a bit of crap shoot. Does that mean the flu vaccine is useless? Keep reading!

Headline #3:  Vitamin D works better than flu vaccine if your levels are low (Time Magazine)

The theory behind vaccines is that they are sort of like a training course for the immune system – preparing the body to fight a particular disease that it might encounter without actually exposing the body to the full-blown symptoms of the disease. With a flu vaccine, this is done by injecting dead or weakened flu viruses into the body. If all goes well, our immune system will rise to the challenge and make antibodies against the virus ‘samples’ received via the vaccine, so that should we be exposed to those same viruses again, our immune system will be primed to deal with them quickly. For this response to happen, we need to have an immune system that can rise to the challenge – something that may not happen. A supplement that research has repeatedly shown to boost immune function/response is vitamin D, aka ‘the sunshine vitamin’. In fact, recently, a scientific review of 25 randomized controlled trials (the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to scientific research designs), confirmed that vitamin D supplementation boosts immunity and cuts rates of cold and flu. The Time Magazine article reported that:

The researchers found that people who took daily or weekly vitamin D supplements were less likely to report acute respiratory infections, like influenza or the common cold, than those who did not. Those who had low vitamin D levels before they started supplementation got the biggest benefit: For people with the most significant vitamin D deficiencies (blood levels below 10 mg/dl), taking a supplement cut their risk of respiratory infection in half. People with higher vitamin D levels also saw a small reduction in risk: about 10%, which is about equal to the protective effect of the injectable flu vaccine, the researchers say. [I bolded that last line … interesting, isn’t it?]

Headline #4:  Statscan finds widespread vitamin D deficiency in Canadians (Globe and Mail)

This article stated that:

The most comprehensive survey ever undertaken on vitamin D in Canadians has found widespread deficiencies of the sunshine vitamin, which is being promoted for everything from the prevention of cancer to reducing heart attack risk.  The survey, conducted by Statistics Canada, found that two-thirds of the population has vitamin D levels below the amounts research is associating with reduced risk of chronic diseases such as cancer.

Chances are, you’re among that two-thirds of the population … unless you’ve read my other posts about vitamin D and taken action!

Headline #5:  Vitamin D pill could stop colds or flu (BBC News)

This headline was based on a research study published in the British Medical Journal – one of the most respected peer reviewed research journals in the world. The article stated that:

Trials on using supplements to prevent infections have given mixed results, so the researchers pooled data on 11,321 people from 25 separate trials to try to get a definitive answer. The team at Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) looked at respiratory tract infections – which covers a wide range of illnesses from a sniffle to flu to pneumonia. Overall, the study said one person would be spared infection for every 33 taking vitamin D supplements. That is more effective than flu vaccination, which needs to treat 40 to prevent one case …

Have you pieced it all together yet?

The bottom line is that whether or not you decide to get the flu shot, taking vitamin D during flu season (October to March inclusive) is a proven, effective action you can take to increase your odds of staving off the flu at any age. To learn about the most effective vitamin D supplement that I know of and how you can get some, click here.

This flu season, take control of what you can.

 

 

References:

http://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583

http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/02/16/515428944/a-bit-more-vitamin-d-might-reduce-winter-colds-and-flu

http://time.com/4672626/vitamin-d-cold-flu/

https://beta.theglobeandmail.com/life/health-and-fitness/statscan-finds-widespread-vitamin-d-deficiency-in-canadians/article596998/?ref=http://www.theglobeandmail.com&

http://www.bbc.com/news/health-38988982

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