Current news reports inform us that the flu vaccine will be
scarce this year. Due to the contamination at a major vaccine
production center, supplies are low and fear has erupted.
Just how successful is the flu vaccine at preventing the illness
and what are our alternatives?
The flu vaccine only protects against three specific viruses
included in that particular year’s formulation. It does
nothing to protect against other common viral or bacterial
infections. Each year, health officials observe last year’s
patterns of influenza activity around the world and make
assumptions about which three flu strains are most likely to
affect our population this year. These are the strains included
in the current vaccine. It is guess work to a large degree.
It is estimated that only 3-14% of those vaccinated last year
were actually protected against the strain of influenza that
actually occurred here. Even if the vaccine matches the current
virus, it is thought to provide 70-90% temporary immunity in
healthy people under the age of 65. For those over 65, the
protection rate drops to 30-40%. Only 20% of those with flu-like
symptoms actually have influenza. Most often, it is another virus
creating symptoms that we interpret as “the flu”.
The vaccine itself can carry certain risks. Thimerosal, a mercury
containing substance is used in many vaccines and can cause
fever, fatigue, painful joints and headache. A bill is in
legislation now to ban the use of thimerosal in childhood
vaccines and reduce the amount used in adult vaccines.
So what is the best way to prevent the flu, given the serious
limitations and risks of the flu vaccine?
There are several prudent measures to take this season. They
Eat a well balanced diet. As we celebrate the holidays many of us
are tempted with sugary treats, alcohol and snack food. Minimize
these. Eat 2-3 cups of fresh vegetables, 1-2 pieces of fruit per
day and include complex carbohydrates and high quality protein.
These benefit your immune system.
Get 8 hours of sleep per night. Sleep is restorative.
Even though it is cold outside, let some fresh air into your
living space every day. Circulation of air is necessary to move
offending viruses and bacteria out of your space. Consider buying
a high quality air purifier that also offers the technology of
germicidal protection. How to Prevent the Flu, Naturally
Wash your hands often! This may be the simplest, yet most often
ignored suggestion. Proper hand washing with soap and hot water
offers excellent protection. Think about all the things you touch
in a day — the supermarket cart, doorknobs, other people’s
hands — the list seems endless, yet most people rarely wash
We do not recommend anti-bacterial soaps as studies show that
they are not any more efficient at cleansing the hands in normal
circumstances than regular soap. Anti-bacterial soaps also remove
the normal bacteria that live on your skin that can actually
protect you. Remember, you aren’t about to perform surgery.
You just want clean hands.
There are also a number of natural remedies that offer protection
against the flu and other winter viruses. In our office we have
successfully used homeopathic preparations such as Mucococcinium
in a flu prevention strategy. Combination herbal preparations
like Immune Support, Vira Con and Herbal Biotic have been patient
favorites. We also blend certain herbal tinctures.
We have used these and other products to successfully treat the
flu, other viruses, and bacterial infection symptoms when they
This is a good time of the year to set up an appointment with
your physician at The Center to discuss flu prevention and
possible treatment options that best suit you. We’ll review
your diet, discuss your home and office environmental options and
you can take home some natural protection to keep you healthy
through the coming winter season.