Flu vaccines may be a massive waste of time and money, a leading expert has claimed.
There is little medical evidence that the vaccines have any kind of beneficial effect, even for people with asthma and cystic fibrosis who might be more vulnerable than others, the UK expert said.
Tom Jefferson, co-ordinator of the vaccines field of the Cochrane Collaboration, has called for an urgent re-evaluation of vaccination campaigns.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), he said that, because influenza viruses mutate and vary from year to year, it is difficult for scientists to study the precise effects of the vaccines.
He claimed most studies are of poor quality, and there is little comparative evidence on the safety of the vaccines.
The difficulty in distinguishing between flu and flu-like illness added to the confusion, with some illnesses listed as flu when they were not, Dr Jefferson said. He said there is potential confusion between influenza and influenza-like illness, when any case of illness resembling influenza is seen as real influenza, especially during peak periods of activity.
"Some surveillance systems report cases of influenza-like illness as influenza without further explanation. This confusion leads to a gross overestimation of the impact of influenza, unrealistic expectations of the performance of vaccines, and spurious certainty of our ability to predict viral circulation and impact."
He said that policy makers, "in their efforts to deal with, or be seen to deal with" a situation, favoured action with what was available – flu vaccines. In a separate article, Dr Jefferson said: "reviews show a consistent picture of modest or no effect of inactivated vaccines and poor quality of the original studies, especially those that are not randomised controlled trials."
He said given the huge resources involved in yearly vaccination campaigns, a re-evaluation should be urgently undertaken. Vaccines given to children under the age of two have the same effect as if they were given a placebo drug, he claimed.
My sister got the flu vaccine last week and two days later she felt very ill and had to go back to doctor, and now has a chest infection and on antibiotics and all her bones are aching/ She says she will never get the antiflu vaccine again.
NO THE FLU VACCINES IS NOT A WASTE OF TIME. OUR SON WHO HAS ASHMA HAS TO GET THIS EVERY YEAR, HE MIGH GET THE ODD COLD, BUT HE USED TO BE ON A LOT OF ANTIOBICES FOR CHEST INFECTIONS AND COLDS, AND NOW HE IS DOING GREAT. HE HAS HAD AN ANTIOBIC THIS YEAR DUE TO AN EAR INFECTION.