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To flu shot — or not?

By Hayley McKinnon

Around this time of year, everyone is asking the same question…

“To flu shot — or not?”

Despite all the ads promoting flu shots, it turns out the answer isn’t so simple. We want you to know the facts first — and make the decision that’s best for you. Here’s what you need to know about the flu shot.

A woman getting a flu shot

Flu shot ingredients that should concern you

The manufacturer’s own package insert lists the ingredients below. They know almost no one reads the fine print. But you need to know what you’re putting in your body:

  • Formaldehyde: yes, it’s the same chemical used to preserve dead bodies. Even the lowest micro doses of formaldehyde are highly toxic.
  • Thimerosal: a euphemism to disguise the notorious poison “mercury” that causes cancer, autism, brain damage and neurodegenerative diseases, among others.
  • Aluminum: a neurotoxin that causes cancer and is suspected to contribute to Alzheimer’s, among other debilitating diseases. Just Google “aluminum toxicity”.
  • Ethylene glycol: better known as antifreeze, the same chemical that regulates the temperature of your car’s engine. In humans, ethylene glycol leads to kidney stones, kidney failure and acidosis.
  • Beta-propiolactone: an industrial-strength disinfectant classified as a “known carcinogen, mutagen and corrosive” on the Special Health Hazard Substance list. Beta-propiolactone also shows up on the International Hazardous Substances list — which means it’s dangerous enough to warrant major red flags from OSHA, the EPA and many others.

A closer look at those flu shot “benefits”

Given the number of known toxins, carcinogens and other poisonous substances in the flu shot, you would think it must have a lot of redeeming qualities to be endorsed by so many organizations…right?

Unfortunately, the flu shot only provides defense against 3 of the 200+ known strains of influenza. And each year’s shot is formulated based on recent infections strains — often not a good predictor of what strains will be dominant in the upcoming flu season. Even the CDC admits that when flu season brings something unexpected, the flu shot is of little or no benefit. Which means that you can still get the flu, regardless of whether you’ve been vaccinated or not.

In fact, according to CDC data, flu illnesses are “only caused by an influenza virus in 14% of cases.”

So if healthy people should avoid the flu shot, is there any benefit for the elderly?You should know that the package insert specifically states that there haven’t been any scientific studies or clinical trials performed on individuals ages 65 and older. Translation: we have no idea whether the flu shot is even safe, let alone effective, for the 65+ population.

So if you hear the claim – even from the CDC – that the flu shot “protects” the weak and/or elderly, remember there is zero evidence to back it up.

It’s worth noting that the flu itself is almost never the lone cause of death. The vast majority of individuals who die with an acute flu infection suffer from preexisting health conditions, compromised immune systems or limited access to proper healthcare.

As a final “risk ratio” factor, remember that the number of vaccinated individuals who end up contracting the flu (despite industry promises that the flu shot would “protect” them) is exponentially higher than the total number of people who die from influenza.

If this is disappointing, keep in mind that the flu shot is a big industry. Total sales are over $4 billion a year. Your local pharmacy makes about $9 for every single flu shot it administers. So there are incentives to make strong, simple claims.

Is there a more natural alternative?

Your body was designed to survive (and thrive!) all by itself, protected by the built-in natural defenses of the immune response. In fact, this is the primary purpose of the entire immune system: to protect the body from foreign invaders.

So everything you can do to enhance your immune function helps build an alternative to the flu shot. Good health habits, a strong digestion (supplemented by a daily probiotic), and stress management are all important.

Some experts argue that handwashing is just as effective as the flu shot. If you ask doctors about personal hygiene, they are all trained to avoid touching their hands to their face — a key to giving pathogens access to your body — and to wash their hands right before they do. Simple translation: don’t touch your face between meals, and wash your hands right before you eat.

So, the question remains: to flu shot…or not?

There’s an old saying: It’s never as good as it seems, and it’s never as bad as it seems. This is a pretty good summary of the flu shot argument. It’s not as safe or effective as claimed, but it’s helpful for some people. It isn’t as easy to identify who benefits as the industry says. Ultimately you have to decide what feels right for you and your family.

  • Analysis of 11 years of data from CDC Weekly Flu Activity & Surveillance Reports. October to May (wk 40 to wk 20) each year.>

Last Updated: January 10, 2022
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