How many times have you been asked, "Have you gotten your flu shot yet?" Did you start to feel left out or even stupidly out of touch for not wanting to get a flu shot? Maybe you hate needles, or have been concerned about what goes into the shots. Maybe you have even questioned whether the whole flu shot thing is necessary. After all, annual flu shots are mostly U.S.-centric (with some distribution in the UK) and a product of the last 10 years or so (flu shots have been available for decades, but only recently become so readily available and so, well, promoted). Are the shots really necessary? And what's up with all the scare tactics and hype? I naturally get suspicious when I hear hype (except for coming attractions—I expect movies to be hyped—remember "Snakes on a Plane"?). So in an effort to learn more about the history and workings behind the flu shot phenomenon, here is a short course on what I found out.
Part I. What's In a Flu Shot?
Nothing that sounds even remotely good, unfortunately. According to Jeffrey Warber, D.C., M.D., these first seven items comprise the bulk of the shot, while the last is the viral part of the shot (explained further by the Centers for Disease Control).
- Thimerosal, the mercury-based preservative that became controversial along with the rise in incidence of autism in the
It was used in the hepatitis portion of the round of infant and toddler vaccines that every U.S. child is expected to take (with my baby, I demanded that her vaccines exclude the hepatitis shot for that reason). Thimerosal has not been proven to cause autism, but it has been controversial enough that it was removed from the hepatitis vaccine. Then why, you might ask, is thimerosal still in the standard-issue flu shot that millions of America citizens get each year? And why did the CDC, the FDA, and the World Health Organization (WHO) seek to cover up the damaging data related to the dangers of thimerosal? U.S.
- Aluminum, used to "promote antibody response," has been linked to pre-senile and senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease when it is ingested, and is a known neurotoxin. While many researchers insist that aluminum does not pass through the blood-brain barrier, aluminum has been found in the brains of a significant percentage of Alzheimer's patients. Again, nothing definitive, but notice how many deodorants and antiperspirants now claim to be "aluminum chlorhydrate-free."
- Formaldehyde, used as a preservative, as in the solution soon-to-be-dissected frogs floated in during 11th grade anatomy class. Breathed in large doses, it can cause irritation and make asthma worsen. Ingested, can cause pain and vomiting. Formaldehyde is also carcinogenic. Lovely.
- Ethylene glycol. Like anti-freeze (propylene glycol), it maintains moisture, normalizes temperature, and is a solvent. "Large amounts [of ethylene glycol] can result in nausea, convulsions, slurred speech, disorientation, and heart and kidney problems."
- Phenol. Used as a disinfectant in the flu shot, "Phenol is considered to be very toxic to humans through oral exposure, with ingestion of 1 g reported to be lethal, with symptoms including muscle weakness and tremors, loss of coordination, paralysis, convulsions, coma, and respiratory arrest."
- Benzethonium Chloride. Used as an antiseptic in flu shots, it can cause "Nausea. Vomiting. Diarrhoea. Convulsions. Shock or collapse."
- Methylparaben. Also known as benzoic acid, methylparaben is Used as a preservative in the flu shot, and "Research at a university in the UK found that parabens are estrogenic, are hormone disruptors and may interfere with fetus development."
- Three killed (non-active) influenza viruses. "Each year, the scientists at the World Health Organization [WHO], the U.S. Centers for Disease Control [CDC] and the National Institutes of Health [NIH] analyze pre-season reports of flu cases around the globe and select which of the constantly evolving strains of influenza virus to include in the 75 million doses of flu vaccine that are distributed around the country." In other words, a committee gets together and votes on which viruses to use. The lucky selected viruses are then grown in chicken eggs and later destroyed before use in the flu shot.
Makes you want to just dash out and get immunized, doesn't it? But wait—it gets worse.
Look for further details in Part II.