An interesting article published in the highly regarded medical journal, The Lancet last week presented a theory that supports my concerns for the recommendation of the yearly flu shot. The article in the Lancet is titled, "Yearly Influenza Vaccines: A Double Edged Sword?" I've always held that ensuring your immune system is strong is really the best defense against colds, flus and it's complications. Using the seasonal flu shot every year has been a concern of mine for my patients from a toxicity point of view such as allergy, mercury and squalene concerns that affect the body's neurological system and can cause unforeseen side effects in the people who are susceptible. Also, I've always held that natural immunity is better than immunity derived from a vaccine. This article written by a group of virus experts from the Netherlands supports my point of view in light of emerging and more threatening strains of influenza A such as the H1N1 pandemic and the much more frightening, yet more rare and more deadly Avian flu (H5N1 strain).
The article explains that getting the yearly flu shot only protects you from the strains placed into the vaccine but does not generate a full immune response where all lines of your immune system get involved. We think of the immune system as just one thing but in actuality there are many lines of cells that make up your immune system. The different lines of cells have different responsibilities and allow for a more quick and full immune response to something you have already been infected with in the past so that you don't get sick from something again.
You cannot develop full immunity to a virus if you have never had the infection because your immune system does not get fully involved. Equally complex are viruses and their ability to mutate. So one strain of virus that you may have immunity to that was derived from a vaccine does not give you partial or full immunity to another of it's cousins. The point of the article is that the seasonal flu vaccine may truly limit a body's ability to respond to NEW strains of similar but not identical flu viruses. For instance your flu vaccine may have the ordinary influenza strains thought to be problematic for the year and it will likely give you immunity to those specific strains. Come a new guy into the neighborhood that your body has never seen like the swine flu, H1N1 and because your body has had partial immunity to other influenza A strains the body delays responding to the H1N1 strain and thus allows it to replicate in your body for longer. This may be why kids and young adults seem to be getting more sick and get much worse complications to the H1N1 flu than older people. The young adults and kids have been getting the yearly flu shot for most of their lives and their immune system is delayed in recognizing the H1N1 flu strain until it gets too much of a foothold therefore leading to more complications and in the worst case scenarios, death.
Older people have been around for longer and have had in their past a significant encounter with influenza that had gotten the whole immune system involved in order to fight it off. Having done that in the past, then the immune system has a memory of what was done and can react to a new strain of virus like the H1N1 more quickly. Not to say you won't get sick and be miserable but in general these people recover without much effort given the alternatives.
In natural medicine we try to talk about how to keep your immune system as strong as possible so that if it has to encounter a new virus it can recognize it and get onto fighting it as soon as humanly possible. Not that you might not get sick from the flu but if you do, you might not end up in the hospital or with a horrible pneumonia. So, practically speaking, wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough, avoid sugar and sweets, ensure you are taking a good vitamin C an D supplement. You just might fare better even without the flu shot than your friends.
For more information on supporting your immune system, read these articles:Share