Influenza Vaccine: Is It Right for You?
Every year when flu season hits you can’t help but hear the debate on flu shots. So many people will tell you every time they get the flu shot they get sick and it’s worse than when they didn’t get the flu shot. I also hear just as many say they never get the shot and they don’t get sick. Others will flock to the pharmacy or doctor’s office to get their yearly shot and advise how they wouldn’t go a year without it.
Meanwhile, many medical professionals will warn you not to miss getting your shot while others warn against it. It’s no wonder many people aren’t sure what to do, what is the real truth?
I am very cautious of what I put into my body, but I never really cared one way or the other about the influenza vaccine. I just didn’t get one. I preferred taking less medicine and used natural remedies for myself when possible. Then one day after Pharmacology class one of our instructors, a nurse for over twenty years gave us her opinion of the influenza vaccine and it wasn’t very good. In fact, it was mandatory that she get one in order to keep her job at a hospital and she advised of how sick it made her and she swore to never get another one. The following year her job required everyone to get the vaccine again and she decided to leave and go into teaching. She wasn’t the only medical professional to warn me of this vaccine and it opened my eyes about the medical profession as well as the pharmaceutical companies.
I am sure you are now wondering what did I do? Well, I spent a few years in school to work in the medical industry and I did for a short while and learned that I wanted to work in natural healing instead. I worked with an internist and then went into long-term health care. Many of my patients were elderly and had Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, dementia of other types, and so forth. Then one day I met a patient that had Alzheimer’s but was doing better than any other patient that I had seen. Not to mention, for as long as she had it she wasn’t declining as quickly as many other patients had. I wanted to know why? I then learned she took the very least amount of medication and used more natural products instead.
That was it, I was hooked and began studying homeopathic, holistic and naturopathic medicine. Over the past few years I have heard the debates on the influenza vaccine and now I am going to give you the information I learned about this vaccine so that you can make an informed decision on what is best for you and your family.
First, let’s look at the ingredients in the flu shot. The first place I went to is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find out what the ingredients are in the influenza vaccine. They actually have a list of every vaccine and their ingredients and a link with the FDA on vaccine updates. You can check this list out “Vaccine Excipient & Media Summary” on the CDC site. You will notice that they have eleven different vaccines for the flu.
According to the CDC this is the first season that Flublok Quadrivalent has been available and protects against four different strains so I am going to review this one since it’s the newest one. Protein Sciences Corp., the manufacturer of Flublok, announced that Flublok is “the only flu vaccine that is made in a 100% egg-free system using modern cell culture technology, making it unnecessary to use an infectious influenza virus, antibiotics or harsh chemicals (eg. formaldehyde) in manufacturing.” It also claims that it is highly purified and has no preservatives such as thimerosal- a form of mercury, egg proteins, gelatin or latex and contains three times more antigens than traditional flu vaccines.
Here are the ingredients in Flublok listed in the package insert from Protein Sciences Corporation.
A single 0.5 mL dose of Flublok Quadrivalent contains sodium chloride (4.4 mg), monobasic sodium phosphate (0.195 mcg), dibasic sodium phosphate (1.3 mg), and polysorbate 20 (Tween®20) (27.5 mcg). Each 0.5 mL dose of Flublok Quadrivalent may also contain residual amounts of baculovirus and Spodoptera frugiperda cell proteins (≤ 19 mcg), baculovirus and cellular DNA (≤ 10 ng), and Triton X-100 (≤ 100 mcg)6
Now that we have the list of ingredients, let’s break them down and see what they do according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI).
Baculoviruses are a large group of DNA viruses that infect insects.
Spodoptera frugiperda cell proteins are from armyworms.
Sodium chloride is used as a saline solution to suspend the vaccine.
Monobasic sodium phosphate and dibasic sodium phosphate are used for keeping the pH balance as well as keeping the active ingredients suspended in water so they do not settle out.
Polysorbate20 (Tween20) is a surfactant and keeps cells from aggregating.
Triton X-100 is applied at different stages of the production to prevent aggregation and precipitation of biomolecules. It is also used to disintegrate the virus particles in split vaccines to guarantee the compatibility during production.
Lipids are adjuvants and improve the body’s response to the vaccination.
Vitamins are sometimes used to grow bacteria instead of using human or animal cells. Unclear of what vitamins or their purpose is in this vaccine.
Amino acids and mineral salts are added as stabilizers to protect the vaccine from adverse conditions such as the freeze-drying process.
There you have the list of ingredients given and what their purpose is. Of course, they list the side effects and precautions but remember that this is the first year this particular Flublok has been given to the public.
The other flu vaccines such as Affluria, FluLaval, Fluvirin, Fluzone have thimerosal, formaldehyde, neomycin and many other ingredients to beware of.
I would like to point out that the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center conducted a study and found that women who received flu vaccines had a weakened immune system response in subsequent years. Lisa Christian, PhD, the lead researcher on the study concluded that there was growing evidence showing that those who received a flu shot in previous years have lower antibody responses in the current year. This would make you more vulnerable to influenza infections.
So what can you do if you aren’t sure or just don’t want to take the risk of getting a flu shot? Besides the obvious hygiene precautions and avoiding contaminated areas, make sure you get enough of these vitamins and herbs.
Vitamin A is linked to T cell function which is important to a healthy immune system. It maintains the integrity of mucous membranes.
Vitamin C it enhances the immune system’s ability to fight infections and reduce the severity of infections already contracted.
Vitamin D helps to reduce the risk of respiratory infections such as colds, flu, bronchitis and pneumonia.
Zinc supports the immune system and is best when taken at the early signs of an illness.
Brewer’s Yeast contains vitamins B, chromium and protein. It stimulates intestinal enzymes to fight bacteria in the intestines and improves immune response to viruses that infect the lungs. It reduces the risk of getting a cold or flu.
Echinacea is a North American Coneflower and one of its many uses has been for boosting the immune system due to polysaccharides. The Lancet Infectious Disease Journal reported there were fourteen studies evaluated and determined that Echinacea reduces your chance of getting a common cold by fifty-eight percent.
Elderberry contains vitamins A and C, flavonoids quercetin, anthocyanin and rutin. All of which boost the immune system. Elderberry extract neutralizes the activity of viruses so that they can no longer enter the cells and replicate.
Larch arbinogalactans are polysaccharides derived from the wood of the Western larch tree. These polysaccharides stimulate the immune system to fend off infections and have been effective during the flu season.
Probiotics restore the beneficial bacteria in your gut and boost your immune system.
My goal here isn’t to frighten anyone from doing what they feel is best. I just want to give you the facts and alternatives to another way that you may or may not have realized is there. We do know that the vaccine is not a guarantee that it will protect you against the strain that will be out. Nor will it guarantee you that you won’t have any problems with side effects.
However, there are alternatives that you won’t have to worry about side effects and allows your own immune system to strengthen. This week I have made my own elderberry syrup and gummy bears with elderberry syrup and tart cherry juice. Before you get sick, you can take one tablespoon daily for adults or one teaspoon daily for children to prevent colds and flu. If you should get it then you would take the same dose four times a day to speed up your recovery. Gummy bears are great for children and adults alike.
I didn’t get the elderberries before they sold out so I had to substitute the elderberries for the elderberry powder. It seems to be just as potent and the powder was much easier to work with. Here are the two recipes I used below.
2/3 c. Elderberry Powder
2 T. Echinacea Root
2 T. Fresh Ginger Root
1 Cinnamon stick
½ t. Whole Cloves
3 1/2 c. Water
¾ c. Raw Honey (optional) Do not use for children under 1 year.
Place all ingredients except the honey into a saucepan and simmer 30-45 minutes. Strain well, I strain at least twice. Allow mixture to cool until warm to the touch. Add honey to your taste if using. Stir well and refrigerate.
NOTE: In the elderberry syrup recipe don’t worry if you don’t have the Echinacea root, the elderberries will work fine without it. Not everyone can tolerate cloves so you can leave that out as well.
Elderberry Gummies (makes 50)
1 ¼ c. Tart Cherry juice (or your choice of juice)
4 T. unflavored Gelatin
¼ c. Elderberry syrup
2 T. Raw Honey (optional)Do not use for children under a year.
Heat ½ c. juice til simmering. Combine gelatin and juice. Stir quickly to dissolve gelatin. Combine all ingredients and whisk until well blended.
Pour into molds and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Ezekiel 47:11-12 King James Version (KJV)
11 But the miry places thereof and the marishes thereof shall not be healed; they shall be given to salt.
12 And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to his months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary: and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.