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Flu Vaccine “Moderately” Effective? FAKE NEWS!

Yesterday (February 17, 2017), posted a story titled, “Flu Vaccine is only moderately protective this year, CDC says.” (1)   The article stated, “Overall, getting a flu shot cut one’s risk of contracting flu and needing to see a doctor by 48 percent this season, when the effectiveness of the various components of the vaccine were assessed together, according to the report published in the CDC’s online journal Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR).”

This story is a perfect example of fake news.

I have seen a lot of flu and flu-like illnesses in my practice over the past few weeks.  Since I have been telling my patients not to take the flu vaccine, since it fails nearly all who take it, I wondered if the current flu vaccine was actually working to prevent someone from getting the flu.  So, I looked up the MMWR to see how effective the flu vaccine really is.  The report can be found here:

The mind-numbing report (anyone who tries to read it will have their mind numbed) states, “Interim estimates of vaccine effectiveness based on data collected from November 28, 2016, through February 4, 2017, indicate that overall the influenza vaccine has been 48% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 37%–57%) effective in preventing influenza-related medical visits across all age groups…”

The news media picked up the 48% effectiveness number reported above.  However, let me explain that number a little better.  The 48% claim of effectiveness of the flu vaccine is a relative risk number.  The relative risk is a statistical term that is universally used in medical studies in order to make a poorly performing drug or therapy look much better than it actually is.  I have pointed out the fallacy of relying on this statistical manipulation in promoting the use of statin medications in my book, The Statin Disaster.

So what is the true effectiveness of the flu vaccine?  That number would be expressed by the absolute risk reduction.  This is a statistical term that best exemplifies if a drug or therapy is truly effective or not.  In the case of the MMWR report on the flu vaccine, the true reduction in the flu vaccine in preventing influenza-related medical visits across all age groups is around 1%.  I can’t give you exact numbers because the MMWR report did not supply the actual numbers.  When the true numbers come out, I will write again.  But, a 50% relative risk reduction means that the absolute risk reduction is probably around 1%.  This means that the flu shot failed 99% who took it—they received no benefit from this year’s flu vaccine. In other words, you have to inject 100 people with the 2016-2017  flu vaccine to prevent one case of the flu. The other 99 people were not protected.

(Note:   I have written about how the flu vaccine fails 97-99% who take it in a previous post.  You can read it here:


Do these numbers sound like this year’s flu vaccine is moderately effective?  No way.  This year’s flu vaccine is similar to every other flu vaccine given:  It fails the vast majority who receive them.  Why physicians promote a therapy that fails a majority who receive it is beyond me, especially when the therapy is associated with adverse effects.  The flu vaccine has a host of serious adverse effects including Guillain-Barre syndrome.

The flu vaccine is a toxic mess that can contain mercury and other unwanted substances that should never be injected into any living being.  The flu vaccine has been around for many years and has never been shown to be very effective at preventing the flu.  Perhaps the new administration in Washington will finally come to the realization that either we make the flu vaccine more effective or we abandon it altogether.  Right now, abandoning it could free up a lot of health care dollars for better use.  I certainly can understand why our President will not get the flu vaccine.

Instead of the flu vaccine, the best advice I can give you is to ensure that your immune system is optimized by taking lots of vitamin C.  If you start to get flu-like symptoms, the best treatment to do at home is to supplement with higher doses of vitamin C and add in Vitamins A and D.

Dr. B





Author Info

David Brownstein

Comments ( 30 )

  • Michael Christian

    This article gave me a good laugh because it so clearly demolishes the false science behind the flu vaccine. Bravo!

  • Joanne

    First let me say that I regularly read your blog and I have never had a flu vaccine. I was wondering though, why you singled Fox News out as publishing fake news. On Feb. 17, 2017, Susan Scutti wrote an article for on the same topic.

    • David Brownstein

      I saw the report and commented on it. I did not even realize that it was Fox News until you pointed it out to me. I did not see the CNN report but would have similarly commented on it if I saw it there. Fake news is fake news. Why would it matter where it came from?

  • I really do not understand your reasoning. You quote “Interim estimates of vaccine effectiveness based on data collected from November 28, 2016, through February 4, 2017, indicate that overall the influenza vaccine has been 48% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 37%–57%) effective in preventing influenza-related medical visits across all age groups…”
    You then complain that the vaccine is less effective for old and young, and maybe so, but the source article report 48% reduction averaged over age groups. How do you then arrive at 1%? Steve points out 5% looks more valid already, yet you stick to your “pull it out of a hat” value of 1%, claiming apparently that the correction for age groups must be applied once more, an invalid operation unless the article is overlooking some detail your value captures.
    Worse than that, this whole viewpoint is false in some way. I admit the following model is extreme but it a basis for further discussion. Imagine a rare, but nasty disease which affects only 2% or the population and an otherwise ideal vaccine which only prevents 50% of cases among those getting the vaccine. In the end we have 1% getting this disease. Again being extreme, let us suppose the entire US population is vaccinated; without the vaccine maybe 3.2 million would contract the disease while with the vaccine only 1.6 million would suffer the nasty effects. I said this is an ideal vaccine by which I mean it produces no serious side effects in either the short term or the long term, although I accept it is only 50% effective. Suppose also that it is cheap. It would be very hard for me to accept your arguments tilted toward not using the vaccine because only 1% of the users get any prevention.
    What must be evaluated in my opinion is the cost/benefit ratio, in the case of vaccines, how many users get which damage and compare that to the damage of not getting the on persons who do contract the disease. According to my understanding sometimes flu kills. I am not a doctor of medicine and do not know how many, if any, suffer permanent or long term injury from flu. However, the proper comparison is to compare risk to those who suffer bad damage from flu to the damage of the vaccine itself. This is no easy job; how do you weigh autism cases of children to deaths of 70 year old grandmothers? (If we even have a satisfactory value for the dangers of autism, and there seems to be some considerable reason for doubts about any numbers now used.)
    There is also another side to this; some of the dangers bothering you are totally unnecessary in Western nations and I am on your side in fighting allowing those to go on. I have written (and you have scrapped) comments on the use of mercury but as far as I can see, there is no GOOD reason for it. It is not needed in single-use vials of vaccine, and we can afford the extra cost of such vials. Perhaps circumstances differ in other locations (away from developed parts of Africa?) where the arguments would be different. Some of the other worrisome ingredients probably could also be eliminated with design changes in production methods, etc. In short, valid arguments suggesting “maybe the flu vaccination is not a good idea” maybe can be erased with a boost in the positive side of the arguments.
    I tried proof-reading what I wrote but your box for entry of comments is not cooperating and the earlier part of the message are invisible to me: I am sorry for not being able to correct the text.

  • Sheila Rich

    I was told by the hospital where I am a volunteer that I MUST take a flu shot or I will have to wear a mask. Consequently, I am no longer a volunteer. I know other hospital employees who are coerced into taking flu shots although they don’t want them. The hospitals say it is a condition for employment. How can Americans be “forced” to have unknown substances injected into their bodies?

    • David Brownstein

      It happens because we, the people, let it happen. We all need to speak up and call our Congressmen/women and let them know how we feel.

  • So.. this portion:
    So what is the true effectiveness of the flu vaccine? That number would be expressed by the absolute risk reduction. This is a statistical term that best exemplifies if a drug or therapy is truly effective or not. In the case of the MMWR report on the flu vaccine, the true reduction in the flu vaccine in preventing influenza-related medical visits across all age groups is around 1%. I can’t give you exact numbers because the MMWR report did not supply the actual numbers. When the true numbers come out, I will write again.

    Can you run this versus last years flu shot results?

    • David Brownstein

      Last year’s flu shot was a mismatch. It was probably zero percent effective. I guess you could say this year’s is better.

  • Alice

    I have not had the flu vaccine in 30+ years. The only time i had the flu was always within one to three days of having the flu shot. Since i quit allowing them to give me the shot i have had it two or three times and used Osocillicocinum ( a homeopathic) to help me deal with the symptoms and allow my body to fight it. Also, used lots of “C” and homemade chicken soup (no noodles) I am stronger because of it.

  • Lil

    Fake News…that’s a good one Dr. B.

    • David Brownstein

      I was proud of that title! Apropos for today’s world!

  • Bill

    Thank You Dr. B for your enlightening article, I have been following your articles for years now and enjoy each and every one of them you put out! I have been trying to inform friends and family of the nonsense the elite medical bureau’s put out for years now, If you yourself put out articles like this I’m sure you’ll take lots of heat and ridicule about it, as always as a previous person stated when ever you buck the system your going for a long ride!! However people need to know whats exactly going on in the medical field (as in all other fields also, ie: political etc) they have tricky ways of reporting what they want the outcome to be so as to fool the public into using their product because the bottom line always comes back to the exact same thing MONEY! Just like they fudge the unemployment numbers to make it look like so many people are off unemployment, sure they are, they just don’t tell the people that they dropped off because their claim ran out and now are looking for work or working part time while collecting assistance, doesn’t the increase in assistance payouts show this ?? why are people so apt to believe what ever the main stream media and the big wigs tell them. its time as our new president is saying for the PEOPLE to take back our government and all branches of it, to start telling it like it really is in all things, meaning telling the people the TRUTH !
    Thanks for a great article I look forward to reading your letters all the time!
    Bill, in Pa.

    • David Brownstein

      Thank you, Bill.

  • Dear dr. Brownstein, It is very important to write about these things (fake truths). Please continue your good work.
    Very often flu symptoms are not the same as having the flu. The symptoms could be due to several other viral organisms like mycoplasma or coxsackie B4, A9 etc. Statistics are based on doctors reports and when there is a ¨flu epidemic¨ going on, all cases who sounds like the flu are the flu – not tested through the laboratory. That makes the whole case regarding vaccination outcome even more uncertain. And what about the old and very young who die. Are they due to the flu or rather due to hospitalisation and treatment? It is very true, that there are a lot of alternative choices of treatment, be they homeopathic, herbal or other (high dose of C-vitamin, D3 100.000 IE as a one time dose, H2O2 etc.). By the way, I have not in 40 years of praxis as a Integrated medical MD had a flu related serious case. But of course, my patients do not take vaccinations.
    Carpe diem,
    Ole vH-D, Spain

  • Thank you Dr. B and all!

    Generally ensuring that one’s “immune system is optimized” is most certainly a better way of thinking than vaccinations. In this instance – that is if there is an actual flu virus. (As far as I know there has never been a flu virus identified.) I don’t wish to make any assumptions about any “virus” and therefore I say if there are real live flu viruses then where do they come from? Is it possible that the “flu virus” is a biological phenomena that is latent within everybody? Might “flu viruses” be considered as heavy duty cleansers? Consider when people have cold symptoms and instead of going with the body’s need for cleansing they attempt to suppress the symptoms with over-the-counter medications. In these common cases then is it any wonder that the incomplete cleansing plus the residual medications will require a more powerful cleaning at a later time? (Aajonus Vonderplanitz[1] addresses this.)

    My “optimizing” is to sweat! I take a very warm bath twice a week for the purpose of inducing a sweat. I never have to concern myself with the flu or with colds! The induced mlld “fever” is the best natural cleanser I know of!


  • Judy Hayman

    I picked up my 6 year old Great Niece from school in the autumn to be told by her that she had something nasty stuck up her nose at school – the nasal flu vaccine. Was I warned that as someone with an auto-immune problem I should not go near my little darling for at least 21 days. I am still struggling to recover from what I am told is my third bout of flu

  • Richard Hutchinson

    I had my last flu shot about 1948 so at 88 years of age I don;t intend to ever do it again >>>

  • Mary

    A couple of Canadian friends and I were discussing the flu vaccine. They knew of someone in a convalescent hospital who was given the flu vaccine. Not long after they came around with a 2nd shot. When questioned about it, they said this vaccine is more effective. $$$$$$?

  • Khaya Davidson

    Dr. B, have you ever heard of homeopathic vaccines? A friend of mine mentioned this, and says it works for her. She buys it on-line every fall. I’d apprciate your opinion. Although I’m not trading in my Vitamin C!

    • David Brownstein

      I have found homeopathics good for treating infections, but I have not used them as a vaccine.

  • Bruce

    I would humbly suggest that we abandon the absolute/relative risk reduction terminology altogether. After many years of futilely trying to explain this to people, I have found that Number Needed to Treat is easily understood by all. NNT is the number of people who must be treated (and run the risk of adverse effects) in order to benefit one person.

    When a large number of currently accepted treatments of all kinds are presented to patients in NNT terms, they frequently decline treatment.

    • David Brownstein

      Agreed, but it still needs to be explained.

  • Another good article Dr. B, and the trickery of relative risk is a pet peeve of mine as well, and after reading this I decided to do another article on this on my own site, and shared some of the insights of this one. From a business perspective they do a great job here creating illusions, and coloring this with relative risk instead of absolute risk is just one of their tools. We also need to be looking at net risk, which accounts for both absolute risk reduction and the risk of the treatment itself, for instance with flu vaccines there are risks involved in getting one. So then we have to add things up on both sides to see if there’s a net benefit. We also need to do a calculation with alternative measures, like for instance your mentioning Vitamin C for the flu, and see which treatment yields a better net outcome.

  • Pingback:Diabetes, Relative Risk, and Absolute Risk - Understanding Type 2 Diabetes

    • David Brownstein

      I would suggest that I am not beating up on any industry. Just telling the truth.

  • L Musall

    Thank Y for clarifying.
    Glad to have the Info.

  • Chris Johnson

    Very interesting blog….confirms what I had suspected. No one in my immediate family gets the flu vaccine anymore, including my physician husband. He had a very serious reaction in the ’70’s to a flu vaccine and has stayed away ever since. I suspect that my oldest son and I may have contracted our auto-immune diseases after being vaccinated in the recent past. And, Deanne S. is right when she says that you are viewed as’ half crazy and scorned’ when people find out that you refuse to get the yearly flu shot. I started questioning all this when my elderly mother’s cardiologist (he’s something of a renegade physician and very smart) said he didn’t think there was any real benefit to getting a yearly flu shot. That’s all I needed to hear.
    Keep your hands clean and take your vitamins!

  • And yet, if you question the generally-accepted, media-promoted view (on whatever topic you dare to challenge the statistics), you are considered half-crazy, and scorned and ridiculed. I know. If you dare to question the status quo, you are likely to be attacked and accused of rejecting scientific evidence or written off and shunned. People don’t want to have to think or consider the facts; they just want to talk with people who endorse the same reality they have accepted.

    I was once told that numbers can be used to prove whatever you want to prove. Even people who know that statistics can be, and are, manipulated, seem to get taken in when there is a political or economic or other agenda that will benefit them in “proving” a certain point.

  • Steve

    Good info for people to understand Dr. Brownstein, and I thought I’d add this in case it clarifies for anyone else, since I had to look this up to verify what I thought you were saying. And to be clear, I am not a fan of vaccines, definitely not a fan of mandatory vaccines, and don’t get the flu shot myself.

    The reason you’re saying it’s 99% ineffective is because so many people won’t get the flu whether or not they take the vaccine. The CDC suggests that 5% to 20% of the population will get the flu every year. I don’t know if this number is accurate, but for easy math, let’s say it’s 10%.

    So 10 in 100 people will get the flu.

    If the numbers are accurate about the flu shot, then 48% of those 10 people (about 5 people) will NOT get the flu thanks to the shot. 5 will still get it even though they took the shot. That means the shot didn’t matter to 90 people (they never would have gotten it) and the shot didn’t matter to the 5 who got it, because they still got it. So you’re saying in this case it is 95% ineffective.

    But it WAS effective in 48% of the people who WOULD have gotten the disease.

    If I’m wrong in how I understand this, it would be great to get your response. And of course I’m not convinced that the 48% number is accurate. And given all the potential complications of injecting oneself with toxic substances (especially long term and things we can’t clearly link back to those shots), those 5 prevented cases aren’t worth it — not to me personally.

    But from the perspective of those who don’t believe vaccinations pose a threat, I can see why 50% protection for those who WOULD get the flu would be an impressive number and why it would seem worth getting the shot.

    • David Brownstein

      My numbers are correct for people who received the flu shot. The flu shot is ineffective for the elderly and very young. Overall, it is about 1% effective for those who receive it, not 48%. The 48% number is a relative risk number that is used to make an inferior treatment appear more effective than it actually is.

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