A question that has lingered since the 2009 mass vaccination campaign against pandemic H1N1 swine flu is whether seasonal influenza vaccination might make pandemic infections worse or more prevalent.
Early on in the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Michael Murray, naturopath and author, confirmed what Judy Mikovits, Ph.D., told me in her second interview with me, namely that seasonal influenza vaccinations may have contributed to the dramatically elevated COVID-19 mortality seen in Italy. In a blog post, he pointed out that Italy had introduced a new, more potent type of flu vaccine, called VIQCC, in September 2019:
The kind of virus interference Murray was referring to had been shown to be at play during the 2009 pandemic swine flu. A 2010 review in PLOS Medicine, led by Dr. Danuta Skowronski, a Canadian influenza expert with the Centre for Disease Control in British Columbia, found the seasonal flu vaccine increased people’s risk of getting sick with pandemic H1N1 swine flu and resulted in more serious bouts of illness.
People who received the trivalent influenza vaccine during the 2008-2009 flu season were between 1.4 and 2.5 times more likely to get infected with pandemic H1N1 in the spring and summer of 2009 than those who did not get the seasonal flu vaccine.
To double-check the findings, Skowronski and other researchers conducted a follow-up study on ferrets. Their findings were presented at the 2012 Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. At the time, Skowronski commented on her team’s findings, telling MedPage Today:
In all, five observational studies conducted across several Canadian provinces found identical results. These findings also confirmed preliminary data from Canada and Hong Kong. As Australian infectious disease expert professor Peter Collignon told ABC News:
A study published in the January 10, 2020, issue of the journal Vaccine also found people were more likely to get some form of coronavirus infection if they had been vaccinated against influenza. As noted in this study, titled “Influenza Vaccination and Respiratory Virus Interference Among Department of Defense Personnel During the 2017-2018 Influenza Season:”
While seasonal influenza vaccination did not raise the risk of all respiratory infections, it was in fact “significantly associated with unspecified coronavirus” (meaning it did not specifically mention SARS-CoV-2, which was still unknown at the time this study was conducted) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV).
Remember, SARS-CoV-2 is one of seven different coronaviruses known to cause respiratory illness in humans. Four of them — 229E, NL63, OC43 and HKU1 — cause symptoms associated with the common cold.
OC43 and HKU1 are also known to cause bronchitis, acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and pneumonia in all age groups. The other three human coronaviruses — which are capable of causing more serious respiratory illness — are SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2.
Service members who had received a seasonal flu shot during the 2017-2018 flu season were 36% more likely to contract coronavirus infection and 51% more likely to contract hMPV infection than unvaccinated individuals.
October 1, 2020, professor Christian Wehenkel, an academic editor for PeerJ, published a data analysis in that same journal, in which he reports finding a “positive association between COVID-19 deaths and influenza vaccination rates in elderly people worldwide.”
In other words, areas with the highest vaccination rates among elderly people also had the highest COVID-19 death rates. To be fair, the publisher’s note points out that correlation does not necessary equal causation:
That said, one of the reasons for the analysis was to double-check whether the data would support reports claiming that seasonal influenza vaccination was negatively correlated with COVID-19 mortality — including one that found regions in Italy with higher vaccination rates among elders had lower COVID-19 death rates. “A negative association was expected,” Wehenkel writes in PeerJ. But that’s not what he found:
the author noted.
In the discussion section of the paper, Wehenkel points out that previous explanations for how flu vaccination might reduce COVID-19 deaths are not supported by the data he collected.
The influenza vaccine may increase influenza immunity at the expense of reduced immunity to SARS-CoV-2 by some unknown biological mechanism … Alternatively … reduced non-specific immunity in the following weeks, probably caused by virus interference. ~ Professor Christian Wehenkel
For example, he cites research attributing the beneficial effect of flu vaccination to improved prevention of influenza and SARS-CoV-2 coinfections, and another that suggested the flu vaccine might improve SARS-CoV-2 clearance.
These arguments “cannot explain the positive, direct or indirect relationship between influenza vaccination rates and both COVID-19 deaths per million inhabitants and case fatality ratio found in this study, which was confirmed by an unbiased ranking variable importance using Random Forest models,” Wehenkel says. (Random Forest refers to a preferred classification algorithm used in data science to model predictions. ) Instead, he offers the following hypotheses:
Since Wehenkel’s analysis focuses on the flu vaccine’s impact on COVID-19 mortality among the elderly, it can be useful to take a look at information presented at a World Health Organization workshop in 2012. On page 6 of the workshop presentation in question, the presenter discusses “a paradox from trends studies” showing that “influenza-related mortality increased in U.S. elderly while vaccine coverage rose from 15% to 65%.”
On page 7, he further notes that while a decline in mortality of 35% would be expected with that increase in vaccine uptake, assuming the vaccine is 60% to 70% effective, the mortality rate has risen instead, although not exactly in tandem with vaccination coverage.
On page 10, another paradox is noted. While observational studies claim the flu vaccine reduces winter mortality risk from any cause by 50% among the elderly, and vaccine coverage among the elderly rose from 15% to 65%, no mortality decline has been seen among the elderly during winter months.
Seeing how the elderly are the most likely to die due to influenza, and the flu accounts for 5% to 10% of all winter deaths, a “50% mortality savings [is] just not possible,” the presenter states. He then goes on to highlight studies showing evidence of bias in studies that estimate influenza vaccine effectiveness in the elderly. When that bias is adjusted for, vaccine effectiveness among seniors is discouraging.
Interestingly, the document points out that immunologists have long known that vaccine effectiveness in the elderly would be low, thanks to senescent immune response, i.e., the natural decline in immune function that occurs with age. This is why influenza “remains a significant problem in elderly despite widespread influenza vaccination programs,” the presenter notes.
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- The Defender January 25, 2021
Copyright © Dr. Joseph Mercola