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Orthomolecular Medicine News Service, January 9, 2018

And no, I am NOT getting a flu shot

by Ralph Campbell, MD

(OMNS Jan 9, 2018) Influenza is upon us early and with severity so we are told. There is the urgent warning to get your flu shot now to avoid being one of 36,000 U.S. deaths every year. This same figure appears every flu season in spite of the CDC admitting, for several clear reasons that the figure is a "guesstimate," the most prominent being that people don't die of influenza, per se, but predominately of secondary pneumonia augmented by other underlying health problems. Unfortunately, the CDC gathers its mortality statistics under the category of "pneumonia and influenza"---lumping them together rather than attempting to determine if the pneumonia was a secondary infection due to an immune system weakened by influenza infection. And since the immune system in the very young and old is often sub-par, they are more prone to both the primary and secondary infections.

This year the flu vaccine is ineffective

The consistency, year after year, that this figure (36,000) is quoted in order to promote a sense of urgency is astonishing. The New England Journal of Medicine recently published an alarming study. From what happened to our Southern hemisphere friends in Australia in their last flu season (their winter; our summer), one can estimate how our oncoming season will go. In Australia last season there were 215,280 cases vs. 59,022 in the 2009 Influenza A (H1N3) season, likely due to vaccine mismatch. This same study presented the discouraging news that in Australia last year, even with a relatively good match, the effectiveness may have been only 42% overall or 34% for the H3N2 strain. This year's Influenza A (H3N3), the predominate strain, proved to be only 10% affected by the vaccine. The reason: Since vaccines need to be prepared in advance, the manufacturer often can't keep ahead of the rapidly mutating strains of the virus. The CDC is making this admission: When the influenza vaccine is a good match to the virus, the shot reduces the risk of getting the flu by 40% to 60%. However, this season (winter of 2017-2018) is one where the vaccine is not well matched to the virus. It is only anywhere from 30% to 10% effective. Natural immunity built up by the immune system is often preferable since it is longer lasting. With this type of information, a discussion of the pros and cons of the flu vaccine with the doctor is imperative----not just with a shot-giver who has no knowledge, or interest in, the personal medical history. [1]

Flu shots preempt the doctor-patient relationship

It is disturbing to have the doctor-patient relationship interrupted. One is greeted upon entering a supermarket that has a pharmacy section with Get your flu shot at our pharmacy. Flu season is upon us; so act now. The shot-giver's sole mission is simply to administer the vaccine -- not to offer information about its pros and cons. In addition, going this route a person's personal doctor will know nothing about the patient having received this vaccination until the next doctor visit. Consequently, drawbacks, some of which can be serious, are not discussed; nor is there any discussion of the natural course of the disease nor how to get symptom relief safely. The doctor can help break the cycle of opacity and dishonesty that permeates the influenza story.

Push by pharmaceutical companies

There is a push from the pharmaceutical companies and the CDC during this current influenza season, to have physicians advise patients to take antiviral products, such as Tamiflu. Where influenza is confirmed or suspected [no matter which], treat with antiviral drugs. They provide nine categories of special need, including American Indians/Alaska Natives, extremely obese individuals, those with immuno-suppression (from HIV infection or drug induced), under age 2 or over 65 and many chronic underlying diseases. [2] Studies of serious side-effects from this class of drugs were made in 2009, but were largely put aside or covered up. But publicizing these studies is only weak protest. The CDC suggests that the only worrisome side-effect is that in about 10% of those receiving one of these drugs will experience nausea (or vomiting in children). Unfortunately, vomiting in children can readily lead to dehydration--- a real problem.

Flu symptoms

Influenza can be a mild illness, but for many it is much more serious. It can make you feel like you were run over by a truck. There can be painful muscle aches and/or a headache that feels as if even your eyes are aching, accented by coughing, making you feel as if your head might blow off. Full sinuses make the voice, which is already weak and shaky, sound as if your nose is pinched off and creating a voice lacking resonance. Weakness may be profound. A week may go by before you can be certain you are still going to survive, and it can be even more days before feeling like you are back to about 80% of your former self.

Dangers of flu drugs

The best the antiviral drugs can offer is reducing symptoms by one day. This fact was admitted shortly after Tamiflu came on the market, but was buried, and has only recently been resurrected. There is not just the question of efficacy, but one must not ignore its potential for harm. In 2009 the FDA and its equivalent in Japan, reported 115 cases of neuro-psychiatric disorders (delirium, hallucinations, abnormal behavior) from a drug in the same class, Releuza. Is Tamiflu, with its potential for harm and not much benefit, worth it? I think not.

Treat and prevent flu with excellent nutrition

Nutritional deficiencies in the elderly are very common. This is a big risk factor for getting the flu because nutritional deficiencies weaken the immune system. Nutritional supplements have been shown to help fight the flu. Vitamin and mineral supplements can significantly reduce its incidence and duration. For example high doses of vitamin C (adult dose 1000-3000 mg/meal or up to 1000 mg/hr or more to bowel tolerance) if taken early in the infection can prevent the worst flu symptoms and reduce the duration by several days.[3,4] Severe pneumonia can be effectively treated with high doses of vitamin C given as IV under the care of a doctor. In those deficient in vitamin A, supplements (adult dose 10,000 - 25000 IU) and colored vegetables (carrots, peppers, squash, sweet potatoes, greens) can reduce the incidence and severity of flu and pneumonia. Supplements of vitamin D (in winter months adult dose 1000 to 5000 IU/day) and E (mixed tocopherols in preference to alpha-tocopherol, 400-1200 IU/day, ramping over weeks to 1200 IU), selenium (50 mcg), zinc (25mg), and probiotics can also increase the resistance to influenza.[5-7] B vitamins are provided by a well-balanced diet but multivitamin tablets contain the full set in correct proportion. In some this natural remedy is enough to entirely prevent getting the flu. Dark green leafy vegetables and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants which can help to build immunity and prevent infection. For a sore throat at the beginning of an infection, probiotics that can be sprayed into the back of the mouth can help. In children, reduce the dose of supplements proportionate to their body weight. Getting excellent nutrition, with lots of raw vegetables and fruits along with supplements throughout the flu season can greatly reduce the risk or entirely prevent infection.[3-8]

Vitamin A has been shown to have great value for children during measles outbreaks in third world countries by greatly reducing the incidence of fatal pneumonia. Vitamin A is obtained from green-leafy and orange-colored vegetables.

Avoid over-the-counter products

In an attempt to avoid the expense and hassle of going to the doctor, don't make the mistake of self-medicating with over-the-counter (OTC) drugs. Whereas in years past some OTC products were designed to provide relief for a single symptom, now drugs are thrown together in order to treat, in one fell swoop, a multitude of "cold" symptoms. For example, in the mix there typically are included drugs to induce sleep, relieve pain, suppress coughing, loosen a tight cough, open up a "stuffy" nose and lower fever, all in one product under one label----often with the same brand name as the original single-use drug. If there is an adverse effect from one of these products, it is difficult to determine "who done it". I have known instances in which people have unknowingly gotten hooked on the cough suppressor in a mixed preparation, Robitussin DM, that also contained a pain killer similar in action to acetaminophen, but toxic to the kidneys, so that with continued use it caused severe kidney damage. This toxic ingredient was replaced with a less toxic product, but the name of the product remains the same. A trick the industry uses to accelerate sales is to keep the old brand name but add, for example, PM after it, meaning a sleep aid has been added. Beware of product labeling that states only what the product is for, rather than the ingredients, e.g.: "for colds with cough and fever".

Since the dose tolerance between safe and toxic levels is narrow for acetaminophen (pain reliever and fever reducer--sold as Tylenol in this country), putting it unobtrusively in a variety of mixed OTC preparations is dangerous. The British equivalent of acetaminophen, Paracetamol, has been their leading cause of severe liver damage -- and that can lead to the necessity of a liver transplant. The warning is posted on the Tylenol package, but the public has no idea that Tylenol is hidden away in these "do-it-all" preparations. I have looked for safe pediatric over-the-counter products and have found very few. A warning of "not to be used for children under two" could make one think that it might not be healthy for adults either.


The flu arrives every year but the vaccines and anti-viral drugs are not always very effective -- and they may have some severe side-effects. Multi-drug preparations available over the counter are not very effective for influenza symptoms and can be dangerous if taken at a high dose. Excellent nutrition, including lots of colorful fruits and vegetables along with supplements of vitamins and other essential nutrients, will help the body to protect itself from infection.


1, Campbell R. Vaccinations: To Be or Not to Be

2, Seasonal Influenza A(H3N2) Activity and Antiviral Treatment of Patients with Influenza

3. Levy TE. Curing the Incurable: Vitamin C, Infectious Diseases, and Toxins, 3rd Edition (2011) Medfox Pub (2011) ISBN-13: 978-0977952021

4. Levy TE. Vitamin C prevents vaccination side effects; increases effectiveness

5. Mamani M, Muceli N, Ghasemi Basir HR, et al. Association between serum concentration of 25-hydroxyvitamin D and community-acquired pneumonia: a case-control study. Int J Gen Med. 2017, 10:423-429.

6. Martineau AR, Jolliffe DA, Hooper RL, et al. Vitamin D supplementation to prevent acute respiratory tract infections: systematic review and meta-analysis of individual participant data. BMJ. 2017, 356:i6583.

7. Urashima M, Segawa T, Okazaki M, et al. Randomized trial of vitamin D supplementation to prevent seasonal influenza A in schoolchildren. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010, 91:1255-60.

8. Case HS. Orthomolecular Nutrition for Everyone: Megavitamins and Your Best Health Ever: Basic Health Pubs. (2017) ISBN-13: 978-1681626574

To learn more:

Downing D. Flu Vaccine: No Good Evidence.

Downing D. Why This Doctor Questions Flu Vaccination.

Smith RG. Flu, Viruses, and Vitamin C Megadoses.

Flu Shots For The Elderly Are Ineffective.

Vitamins Reduce the Duration and Severity of Influenza.

Nutritional Medicine is Orthomolecular Medicine

Orthomolecular medicine uses safe, effective nutritional therapy to fight illness. For more information:

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