Cartoonist’s opinion on flu shots rude and ill-informed

In response to the rude and ill-informed comic you published in Wednesday’s paper insinuating that people who choose not to get the flu shot are “stupid” and self-centered…

Many of us choose not to get the shot because we have vaccine-injured loved ones. Many of us know that claims that vaccine injury is “one-in-a-million” are baseless since health authorities admit only a small fraction of adverse events are properly reported (See “Consumer reporting of adverse events following immunization”, Human Vaccines and Immunotherapeutics, 2014 Dec, which suggests up to 95 per cent of such events go unreported).

Many of us have seen the often abysmal flu vaccine effectiveness rates over the past several years and have decided the payoff isn’t worth risking serious possible side-effects, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Many of us have looked at the recent study suggesting that receiving the flu vaccine year after year appears to weaken the body’s ability to fight off the virus in the future (“A perfect storm: impact of genomic variation and serial vaccination on low influenza vaccine effectiveness during the 2014-15 season”, Skowronski DM, Chambers C, Sabaiduc S, et al. Clinical Infectious Diseases, 2016 Mar 29).

These findings echo reports by the Canadian flu surveillance network in the wake of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic which found that Canadians who had received a seasonal flu shot in the fall of 2008 were 1.4 to 2.5 times more likely to get an H1N1 infection requiring medical attention, compared with those who didn’t get the seasonal shot.

Despite frequent assertions by health authorities that the science surrounding the safety and efficacy of vaccines is settled, scientists can’t explain the apparent negative effects of “serial vaccination,” leading us to wonder how “settled” vaccine science really is.

It should also be noted that research has found that parents who choose not to vaccinate their children are generally better educated than their pro-vaccine counterparts.

I am personally very concerned about immunocompromised individuals, but since the flu vaccine is often ineffective, has the capacity to weaken one’s immunity to the flu with repeated use and carries several serious risks, I choose to forego the flu shot until a more effective product has been developed and data is available demonstrating the vaccine does more good than harm.

In the meantime, I take a common sense approach: Wash hands, cover my mouth when I cough, general good health care (nutrition, stress-management, sun exposure, rest) and I stay home when I’m showing any symptoms of illness.

I hope in the future both the cartoonist and your publication will refrain from being so presumptuous when it comes to people’s reasoning for foregoing the flu shot and other vaccines.

Tanya MacDonald