DO YOU NEED A FLU SHOT THIS YEAR? With our flu season upon us (running from November to April), drugstores and now even grocery stores, are doing some creative things to promote flu shots. With over 166 million doses made this year, compared to 157 last year, it has become difficult to sell flu vaccinations. Since retailers last year gave only 20% of all flu shots, they are heavily promoting it this year. Drugstore chains use this to introduce the diabetic screening and in-store clinics.

Last year only one third of adults and one half of children got flu shots. A big difference from two years ago when people were standing in line demanding shots. This year’s flu shot doesn’t offer any new protection against other viruses, and it is harder to convince people to get another shot. You are told: “last year’s shots have worn off, and new shots are needed”.

There are offers of coupon booklets, grocery discounts, signs down every aisle and at checkout, all saying “this friendly drugstore will give you a flu shot”. Grocery chains are offering 10% off coupons for future shopping, giving free grocery items as apples, coupon books on frozen vegetables bottled water and vitamins, and even hands sanitizers.

Drugstore television ads are aimed to the elderly, who are most vulnerable. Flu shots are offered at $25-$30, and half of this is drugstore profit.

25% of 2009’ flu vaccine that was produced were thrown into the trash and incinerated-- over 40 million doses at a cost of $260 million. That was four times as much left over than any other season. Another 30% later expired and were also unusable. In summary, 43% of our vaccine supply was wasted. The government defended our huge drug house purchase as necessary, fearing the flu epidemic could be global. As it turned out, it ended up killing fewer people than our seasonal flu.

The message is being sent to that even healthy people can become severely ill from the flu. There is a great added push to promote this message of prevention. The government does not want to be stuck with another huge vaccination expense it’s as two years ago, yet they have ordered the same amount of vaccines.

The CDS anticipates the same three strains again will be needed. The current flu vaccine protects against all three strains, (A/H3N2 strain, B strain, and the 2009 H1N1 pandemic strain. Human influenza, A and B, are present every winter in the United States. This matchup in this years vaccine may not be the actual circulating strains needed. There is concern that young people may be susceptible to H1N1–like viruses that continue to circulate.

Will this vaccination keep me well?

Seasonal influenza viruses constantly need to change their protein structure to invade your cells. Ideally, if you should be vaccinated every year with updated formulas that protect you against new strains, but not economically feasible. Researchers want to develop a universal flu vaccine that does not need updating. Their current vaccines prompt your body to create strain specific antibodies that bind and prevent the virus from attacking you.

However, you have a second neutralizing antibody in more stable regions, that prevent the virus from entering your cells. These “stem reactive bodies” are not as potent, but act against a greater range of virus strains than the antibodies you produce from the vaccinations. It has been shown that many of these stem reactive antibodies can prevent severe disease caused by influenza viruses.

Studies have shown that even though the specific virus antibody created by your vaccination has decreased, baseline levels are maintained over years by periodic exposure to seasonal viruses. This intermittent viral exposure vaccination is thought to reduce the severity of influenza disease. Despite not preventing infections as the 2000 H1N1, it has reduced the disease severity. Attempts are made to develop new influenza immunogens that can boost these neutralizing antibodies in your body--and thus eliminate the need for annual influenza vaccinations. (Science August 2011)

The last three pandemic influenza viruses, 1918, 1957, and 1968, all came from non-human reservoirs. The H1N1 virus was first isolated from swine in 1930 and was similar to the 1918 virus, suggesting a common ancestor. This virus circulated in us from 1918 to 1957. The swine still remain a reservoir of H1 viruses, which potentially causes major respiratory outbreaks in humans.

In April 2009, a new H1N1 virus was isolated from humans in Mexico and the United States. It contained a combination of genes that were not previously reported in swine or human influenza viruses in the past. Many of the markers that were present in the 1918 pandemic virus were not present in the 2009 H1N1 virus. This virus is homogeneous, occasionally infecting humans, and similar to classic swine viruses that have circulated in our country for the past 10 years,.

Since this virus appears transmissible between us humans it has caused alarm. However, we have a very complex antigenic immune system, and the antibody boost you get from the vaccinations may not be protective.

Understanding viruses in your body!

Healthy people are full of viruses. Viruses are more diverse than our bacteria and each of us have a huge stable of viruses. Many of the viruses in your body prey on your bacteria, alter their numbers, and make the bacteria shuffle genes, become diversified, and antibiotic resistant. Viruses are important in driving what’s going on with your bacteria. Many documented specific viruses have had their DNA identified in blood and other tissues.

It has been shown that infants with unexplained fevers have a lot more viruses than healthy infants. Many children under three have unexplained fevers and visit emergency rooms. No cause is found in 90% of cases. When cultured, children with fevers had 10 times as many viral sequences than healthy children. Some of them were human pathogens, as herpes and cold viruses. Others were unusual viruses that generally do not result in disease. We prescribe antibiotics for these unexplained fevers but they are ineffective against viruses.

Viruses that infect your human cells, first attack bacteria in your body. It is estimated there are 10 million viruses packed in each gram of human stool. The viruses that live in human bacteria are called bacterial phages. Scientists label your body’s viral community as “virome”. Science can’t characterize these viruses because the viral sequences don’t match up in their databases. Scientists today are studying the viromes more closely, but this is extremely difficult, since bacteria are much easier to count than viruses.


Certainly the flu is unpredictable and potentially deadly: everyone must take it seriously. Over two thirds of seniors received the flu shot last year. They are targeted because of high risk of diabetes, asthma, heart disease, and other chronic conditions. Many seniors are recipients of the flu shot campaign, since: “All flu vaccinations are covered by new insurance plans without cost-sharing”. Is this a good deal for our seniors? Many already have compromised immune systems that are jeopardized by this added vaccination.

As an alternative, one might consider acupuncture to boost immunity during the flu season. This is safe, inexpensive, and highly effective.