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Vaccination articles are a benefit to the community

POSTED November 17, 2009 9:38 p.m.
David Dubyak accused the Turlock Journal of rubberstamping the flu shot recommendation of the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institute of Health in his recent letter to the editor. I have been reading the series of science related articles, published on Saturdays, and authored by Dr. E. Kirsten Peters in your editorial page. I suspect, based on your inclusion of these articles, that your action was an intelligent choice, rather than a rubberstamp.
Mr. Dubyak has written numerous letters citing a 2005 NIH report. Mr. Dubyak is referring to a study done on people 65 and older and quoting it out of context. He attempts to turn the observation that, “the influenza vaccine has not produced any ‘measurable declining in mortality rates in any age group,’” as a conclusion that applies to all age groups not just the 65 and older group from the study. Our immune systems can degrade with age and we become more susceptible to disease.
This is what the NIH and CDC did conclude in their statement:
“CDC and NIH continue to support the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendation that people aged 65 and older get vaccinated against influenza each year. People aged 65 and older are at highest risk for complications, hospitalizations, and deaths from influenza. Vaccination remains the best protection from influenza available for people 65 and older and their loved ones.
“Numerous studies have shown that influenza vaccination works- including to help protect the elderly from serious illness and hospitalizations- but the degree to which it works varies from year to year and can be difficult to measure. For example, influenza seasons differ each year in length and severity, and the health status of individuals also matters.
“In the current study by Simonsen et al, the authors in no way imply that the elderly should not receive influenza vaccine. Rather, the study concludes that the vaccine may prevent fewer deaths among the elderly than previous studies would have suggested. Therefore, the authors note that there is room for improvement in influenza prevention efforts, including research into developing more effective vaccines for the elderly and the increased use of medicines to treat flu.
In addition, recently published studies raise the possibility that it may be beneficial to vaccinate larger numbers of healthy persons, including children, to prevent transmission of influenza viruses to high-risk persons such as the elderly.”
Mr. Dubyak cites the suspended program in 1976 where the number of those who also came down with Guillain-Barré Syndrome was noted in 0.0011 percent of the recipients of the flu shot. He neglects to say that in the 33 years since, there has not been a similar experience. He tells us that, “only three strains of influenza are in each year’s shot. Not once has the vaccine contained the strain which accounted for the most flu cases that given year.”  That is because the flu vaccine worked for the three most virulent strains and people didn’t get that strain of flu, thus reducing the number of cases. Flu vaccines give you the protein coat, not the DNA of a virus and your body must build antibodies to that protein. That is how your immune system works naturally. The benefit is that you build that immunity before infection and not after you have been infected and have become sick. If you get your immunization during the flu season, you might not have had the time to build the immunity and, upon exposure to the virus, come down with the flu. There is no magic medicine in the vaccine. Your body must still respond as it naturally does. It just does so without the viral DNA that invades your cells when you get infected. By having the general public vaccinated, the high-risk groups that he lists who can’t develop the antibodies receive increased protection from infection by not being exposed in the first place.
With the number of infections going up and the number of deaths caused by the flu or secondary complications, is it really his recommendation that we greatly increase those numbers and over tax our health care system? Thank you, editorial staff of the Turlock Journal, for thinking of the health and welfare of our community in recommending that we get vaccinated.
— Eric Julien 

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