The flu shot: A matter of dollars and sense

Earlier this week I told you about how the medical establishment is trying to shame parents into giving the flu vaccine to their kids. In a study published in the mainstream journal Pediatrics, researchers (with ties to the vaccine industry, naturally) claimed that parents who practice complementary and alternative medicine are putting their children at risk.

How? By exposing them to healthcare practitioners who dare encourage them to weigh the risks of flu vaccines against the benefits.

As I’ve said before — and will continue to say as long as it continues to be true — the flu vaccine is not a sure bet against the flu. Not even close. Even the CDC can admit to this, though they often take their time doing it.

Now I’ve come across another study along the same lines. This one, though, takes aim at adults. The argument? That by avoiding the vaccines, we’re costing the nation $7 billion a year.

Sounds pretty dramatic, right? Well let’s take a closer look at the actual data.

The study (if you can call it that — it was really just a bunch of statisticians sitting around a room proving whatever they want to prove) created a statistical model of the costs of in- and outpatient healthcare, medications, and lost productivity that results from “vaccine-preventable” diseases.

The researchers looked at 10 vaccines against 14 pathogens: hepatitis A and B viruses, herpes zoster, human papillomavirus (HPV), influenza, measles, mumps, rubella, meningococcal disease, pneumococcal disease, tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis, and varicella.

Of those, influenza represented the lion’s share of disease diagnoses: 16.6 million cases, out of a total of 18.5 million cases.

Then the researchers dug into how much each illness cost the country. Now this isn’t nearly as straightforward as it seems. And I’ll explain why, but first let’s look at how the researchers presented their findings.

The flu, they said, cost $5.79 billion dollars in 2015 — out of a total $9 billion associated with vaccine-preventable diseases on the whole. And they estimate that 80 percent of those costs are the fault of unvaccinated adults.

The lead author goes on to state, “Adults who do not vaccinate are incurring costs to society. It is not just the person who gets sick from the vaccine-preventable disease who pays for the costs, but everyone who pays for insurance.”

What’s interesting, though, is what goes into this calculated cost. It’s not just the hard costs like doctor’s bills and medications, but also the soft cost catch-all category of “lost productivity.” They’re assigning a dollar amount to the days that people call in sick with the flu.

Now ask yourself, how often have you called in sick with the flu when really you had the sniffles — or maybe even just because you wanted a day off? (Don’t worry, I’m not going to report you.) I’ll confess, I’ve certainly done it.

So obviously that skews the numbers. But here’s the real kicker: the whole premise behind these numbers is off.

Why are they asking the 58 percent of Americans who didn’t get the flu shot to shoulder the blame for these costs, when the flu shot doesn’t even work in more than half the cases? In 2015, the CDC admits that the vaccine only prevented the flu 47 percent of the time.

That means 53 percent of the time, the flu shot was a complete waste of time — and, yes, money. But who’s calculating those costs? Have you seen any splashy headlines about how much money ineffective flu vaccines are costing the country?

I didn’t think so.

Clearly, this “study” is really just a lot of supposition and speculation on the part of the statisticians who conducted it. And as I’ve said before, when you’re analyzing data, you can get it to say anything you want it to. You just have to ask the right questions.

If we really want to have a big economic impact on the country by combating preventable diseases, why not take aim at diabetes and cardiovascular disease? We would put a serious dent in the rates of both — and the staggering costs associated with them ($245 billion per year for diabetes and $320 billion for cardiovascular disease) — simply by taxing sugar, which is a main driving force behind both epidemics.

But back to the flu vaccine article. The authors stress that their findings illustrate the need for increased use of vaccines in adults. With a dollar sign attached to it now, I wouldn’t be surprised if the powers-that-be start calling for mandatory vaccination for all adults in this country.

Oh, and just one more little detail about this “study.”

It was funded by Merck and Company, where two of the coauthors work. And guess what Merck manufactures?


Need I say more?