Pros and Cons of Flu Shots for Seniors

Flu ShotIf you listen to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) and pharmaceutical companies, any sensible person, and especially seniors, will get an annual flu shot.

But, if an UpGraded Senior noses around a little and actually examines the facts (gasp!) as opposed to the propaganda, the case for flu shots is not nearly as convincing as the CDC and other advocates would have us believe.

In September 2015, CDC Director Tom Frieden said: “Get vaccinated … That’s the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu.” Is that accurate? Let’s take a look at some of the actual facts.

Full Disclosure

Before I go further, let me make the following disclosures:

  • I am a senior
  • I have never had a flu shot
  • I never intend to get a flu shot unless Big Brother makes it a legal requirement (a possibility)
  • I don’t trust drug companies
  • I am DEFINITELY NOT impartial on this matter (although I’ll do my best to keep my personal beliefs out of this article and stick to the arguments for and against flu shots without interjecting my personal views)

So, as flu season approaches it seems everywhere you turn you are being encouraged to get a flu shot. Let’s lay a foundation for this recommendation.

The CDC conducts studies every year in an attempt to determine how well the flu vaccine protects us against the flu. The CDC admits that it’s not an exact science and that vaccine effectiveness varies considerably depending on a number of factors including the type of vaccine, the type of flu, the age and health of the person vaccinated and more.

According to the CDC website, flu vaccination reduces the risk of flu by between 40% and 60% among the overall population. So, even using the CDC’s numbers, the vaccine is effective only about half the time.

The National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC) reports that in 2004-2005 the flu shot failed 90% of the time. The 2014-15 flu vaccine had a dismal 18% effective rate. The 2015-16 results were better for the injectible vaccine with an effective rate of 63%.

Does the Flu Shot Work for Seniors?

Since we are UpGraded Seniors, what we’d really like to know is how the vaccine works for older people.

The NVIC website reports that after studying flu infections for 2012-13 in the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, and Pennsylvania, U.S. public health officials reported that for adults over age 65 years, vaccine effectiveness was close to ZERO.

A 2013 study from the CDC found that the 2013 flu vaccine was not very effective for adults 65 and older. They found that older people who were vaccinated were just as likely to visit the doctor for flu symptoms as older people who did not get vaccinated.

To be fair, other studies indicate that individuals who do get sick experienced less severe symptoms and a 2013 study published in the journal, Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that people who got the vaccination were less likely to be hospitalized with the flu.

And, some studies suggest that we seniors receive increased protection by getting a higher-dose flu vaccine. The high-dose vaccine has 4 times the dose of the standard vaccine. A 2014 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the high-dose vaccine provides 24% more protection.

An evaluation by the CDC over a 10-year period from 2005 to 2015 demonstrated that seasonal flu shots are less than 50% effective more than half the time, and there is some evidence that people receiving annual flu vaccinations do not get as much benefit in subsequent years as they did the first year they were vaccinated.

What About Side Effects From Flu Shots?

As with most drug therapies, there are some side effects associated with the flu vaccine, the most serious being possible paralysis from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS) or death. However, these instances are very rare, only 1.7 cases of GBS per million vaccinations in 2003.

For a more complete analysis of potential complications I suggest reading this article written by Dr. Mercola, a natural health physician.


Based on the information I was able to find, the CDC’s enthusiastic and unconditional endorsement of flu shots may not be warranted based on the facts.

At best, I think the science (the facts) would lead an objective thinker to conclude that the jury is still out and that the efficacy of flu vaccines is far from proven.

Whether you get a flu shot or not is, for now, a personal decision to be made after considering the available information, including the advice of your health care advisors – taken with a grain of salt, of course, because many health care professionals are prone to sing relying on the hymnal published by the pharmaceutical industry.

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