The CDC estimates that during the 2018-2019 season, influenza (the flu) resulted in 34k deaths. Common symptom for the flu according to the CDC may include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
More serious complications that arise from the flu such as pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections, ear infections and aggregation of chronic health conditions can be fatal for those with pre-existing conditions.
What is a Product Insert?
Each year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) provides guidance to the CDC for the seasonal flu product. Currently the 2019-2020 recommendations include four influenza vaccine products for children starting at 6 months old. These four products are Alfuria, Fluarix, Flulaval, and Fluzone. The manufacturers of these products (Sequirus, Glaxosmithkline, and Sanofi) make product inserts for each of these products detailing information such as studies done, contraindications, and adverse reactions.
Within each insert, there is a section (typically Section 6.2) titled "Post-Marketing Experience." This section details adverse reactions that have been reported after the product has gone to market. Combined,, there are 141 adverse reactions listed on these inserts for the flu products. These adverse reactions include disorders in the neurological system, blood/lymphatic system, immune system, nervous system, vascular system to skin/subcutaneous tissue issues as well as administration site conditions. Below are the adverse reactions that were reported for each individual flu product as listed on the insert:
Did your doctor tell you about any of these risks the last time you received a flu shot? If you were not informed of these potential adverse reactions, you were not given true informed consent. Informed consent is both your right as a patient, and the ethical and legal responsibility of a healthcare provider. It involves the healthcare practitioner informing the patient of all benefits, risks, and alternatives laid out for you prior to any medical procedure or product.
Many of these reactions, such as anaphylactic shock, require immediate diagnosis and treatment. Given the lack of informed consent, parents and caretakers will likely not know to look for these reactions if they are unaware of the possibility of them occurring in the first place. In addition, the flu products are heavily marketed and administered in locations outside of a clinical environment such as schools, pharmacies, and workplaces. If a patient received this product and had a negative reaction, would that facility or environment be capable of determining the cause and be able to treat a reaction in a timely manner? In addition, are pharmacists who are administering these products taking a full medical history prior to performing this medical procedure?
There are many concerns with the flu vaccines which are laid out in the manufacturer inserts. It is long past time for consumers and healthcare providers to ask: "are these products truly safe and effective?"
With 141 adverse reactions listed by the manufacturers themselves, perhaps we must consider the possibility that perhaps they are neither.