It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.
Please white-list or disable AboveTopSecret.com in your ad-blocking tool.
Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.
Expert questions US public health agency advice on influenza vaccines
Marketing influenza vaccines involves marketing influenza as a threat of great proportions, argues Johns Hopkins fellow
Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease
The United States government public health agency, the CDC, pledges “To base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data, openly and objectively derived.” But Peter Doshi, a postdoctoral fellow at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, argues that in the case of influenza vaccinations and their marketing, this is not so.
His article is published on bmj.com today (Thursday 16 May 2013).
Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today, writes Doshi. Today around 135 million doses of influenza vaccine annually enter the US market, with vaccinations administered in drug stores, supermarkets - even some drive-throughs.
This enormous growth has not been fuelled by popular demand but instead by a public health campaign that delivers a straightforward message: influenza is a serious disease, we are all at risk of complications from influenza, the flu shot is virtually risk free, and vaccination saves lives.
Yet, Doshi argues that the vaccine might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated.
To support its case, the CDC cites two studies of influenza vaccines, published in high-impact, peer-reviewed journals and carried out by academic and government researchers with non-commercial funding. Both found a large (up to 48%) relative reduction in the risk of death.
“If true, these statistics indicate that influenza vaccines can save more lives than any other single licensed medicine on the planet,” says Doshi. But he argues that these studies are “simply implausible” and likely the product of the ‘healthy-user effect’ (in this case, a propensity for healthier people to be more likely to get vaccinated than less healthy people).
In addition, he says, there is virtually no evidence that influenza vaccines reduce elderly deaths – the very reason the policy was originally created.
He points out that the agency itself acknowledges the evidence may be undermined by bias. Yet, he says “for most people, and possibly most doctors, officials need only claim that vaccines save lives, and it is assumed there must be solid research behind it.”