Another year… another useless flu vaccine

Obviously, I don’t delight in the misfortune of those who’ll catch the flu — despite the multiple warnings not to get them. But,I have to admit, the news reports about how this year, there’ll be even more of those people than usual, has me feeling a bit smug.

And really, can you blame me? Because — that’s right, folks — once again, it appears this year’s vaccine simply doesn’t work.

What kind of a joke is this, anyway? I swear, these vaccine manufacturers are like my weatherman — they consistently miss the mark and somehow still have a job.  How many of us can say that?

Yet here we are for the umpteenth time. And all I can say is, “I told you so.”

Experts from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have already warned that this year’s flu season is going to be a real whammy. They indicate it won’t do very much to protect us against the H3N2 strain of influenza A that’s already going around.

Why? Because even they admit our current vaccine development methods just aren’t up to snuff.

So not only did the CDC force the wrong flu vaccine on us, but it seems as though we don’t have the mechanisms in place to ever really get the vaccine right! Seriously?!

Apparently, egg-based production methods are a big part of the problem. Using eggs to propagate flu vaccine viruses alters them in ways that make them less effective against the bug du jour they’re manufactured to fight.

And, well… that kind of defeats the purpose, now doesn’t it? Unless, of course, the whole flu shot “dog and pony show” is really just a shameless money grab by Big Pharma, anyway. And if you ask me, that’s as good a theory as any.

Because think about it: Do you really expect flu vaccine manufacturers to invest in a more effective product when they know that the public will line up for their shots every single year, whether they work or not?

After all, we already know this year’s flu shot is a dud. Preliminary data put its efficacy at a pathetic ten percent. And still, PSAs abound reminding us that it’s not too late to get one.

Now, this year’s match is especially poor — the WHO bet on the wrong strain, and here we are. However — and I want you to pay CLOSE attention to what I am about to say — even well-matched flu vaccines are a crapshoot.

Their effectiveness ranges from 40 to 60 percent in a good year. (Lower than just about any other type of vaccine on the market.) Consider the fact that only 5 to 20 percent of the population catches the flu in any given year anyway, and you have to wonder why anybody even bothers with it.

So I suppose it makes sense that infectious disease experts would be calling for new approaches — namely, universal vaccines, instead of the seasonal, strain-specific shots on offer now. (It also makes me suspect that something may be afoot. And if so, call me a cynic, but it’s probably not to our benefit.)

But more likely, this is just wishful thinking on their part. It seems like every year, there are articles decrying the flu shot’s dismal effectiveness. But do recommendations ever change?

The CDC’s sure don’t… and neither do mine.

I almost universally recommend against a flu vaccine. Sure, there are exceptions. But generally, if you keep yourself healthy enough, you don’t need to inject a vial of poison into your body to avoid infection.

Wash your hands with soap and hot water. Avoid sugar. Get quality sleep every night. And exercise regularly.

It’s not rocket science. But unlike the flu shot, it works.