Opinion Column

Dubious flu shots imposed anyway

By Bill Tieleman, News, Views, and Attitude – 24 hours

(QMI Agency file photo)

(QMI Agency file photo)

How many deaths are there? They can’t tell you. The information on deaths in B.C. from the flu isn’t available — Drug policy researcher Alan Cassels

British Columbians are being told – or even ordered – to get a flu shot to save lives. But what if health authorities couldn’t quantify how many lives are being saved by the shots, or exactly how many lives are lost to the flu?

How could they justify the enormous expense and intrusion into personal health choices if the shots don’t work well and few people die from the flu? What if they couldn’t?

Given a 2011 report in the medical journal Lancet Infectious Diseases showing flu shots are only 59% effective, on average, for adults aged 18 to 65 and still less so for the elderly, are they worth it?

These are disturbing questions to Victoria drug policy researcher Alan Cassels.

From December through April, B.C. has ordered health-care workers, but also hospital and care home visitors, must either get the flu shot or wear a mask.

But how many people are really dying from the flu?

A B.C. Health Ministry news release from Nov. 7 states: “Each year, between 2,000 and 8,000 Canadians die from complications from influenza.”

Cassels said that number is misleading and not backed up by research.

“I’m a researcher, I trust numbers,” he said in an interview. “We can’t guess on this stuff – we need the numbers.”

On Health Canada’s Flu Watch website, cumulative statistics from Aug. 25 to Nov. 23 state: “To date, this season, 57 influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported ... No deaths have been reported.”

In an email Sunday response to questions, Dr. Perry Kendall, the province’s chief medical health officer, wrote: “As no jurisdiction tests every admission or death for influenza, there is no fully accurate accounting. We rely on a variety of surveys and models. Obviously as vaccination rates, vaccine effectiveness and viral virulence change from year to year, so will the numbers.”

Kendall sent a 2013 BC Centre for Disease Control paper on flu shot research, but it cuts the maximum mortality rate in half, stating: “We generally estimate that between 2,000-4,000 Canadian die from influenza annually.”

Cassels’ advice: “Demand credible support for the flu-shot policy, not the ‘trust us we’re experts’ approach.”

But like it or not, variable facts or not, in B.C. flu shots are being imposed.

Read more at billtieleman.blogspot.com Email: weststar@telus.net Twitter: @BillTieleman




Have you or will you get a flu shot this season?

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