Do Flu Vaccines Really Work?

Reader Contribution by Kc Compton
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Although the Centers for Disease Control has launched a vigorous nationwide public health campaign urging everyone, particularly elderly and vulnerable people, to get vaccinated against the flu, some researchers disagree with the message. Tom Jefferson, an epidemiologist with the prestigious Cochrane Collaboration, with headquarters in Great Britain, has published several systematic reviews of existing studies on the effectiveness of flu vaccines. As a recent Time magazine article details, the researchers conclude, based on the data, that there really isn’t sufficient evidence to indicate that flu vaccines reduce infection rates or mortality.

Jefferson hopes to spur further research into flu vaccines and says he is not generally anti-vaccine. However, he says, not enough studies have been done to state with any degree of certainty whether or not vaccines do work against the flu.

“This is not to say that these and other studies, taken together, suggest that vaccines don’t work for the elderly,” Jefferson says. “The answer is a question mark. We don’t know what protection vaccines offer. I don’t think that’s a bad thing: Uncertainty is the motor of science. We need large studies to find out.”

Meanwhile, he says, there are proven interventions that do work and don’t cost money. Chief among these is hand-washing.

“I think with influenza there’s a feeling in governments that, ‘We have to do something.’ Well, you can do something: You can promote better, cheap public health measures such as hand-washing. They work.”

Here’s the rest of the article. Now, let’s go wash our hands!