How Government Sells Fear and Sickness: The Case of the Flu
How Government Sells Fear and Sickness: The Case of the Flu by Barry Brownstein for American Institute for Economic Research
This fall expect the government-funded flu propaganda machine to be out in full force telling you it is your duty to receive a flu vaccination. In language similar to what they use for masks, we are instructed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to “protect yourself—and those around you—by getting a flu vaccine.”
The University of California system has issued a new mandatory flu vaccine requirement for all faculty, students, and staff. Massachusetts became the first state to issue a flu vaccine mandatefor all public school children. Both California and Massachusetts claim their orders will conserve health care resources by avoiding “a surge of flu cases at health care facilities.”
Many of us think we know about the flu vaccine. We believe it prevents the flu or, at the very least, reduces complications from the flu, thus reducing deaths. The flu story we think we know is not supported by medical evidence. The history of the flu vaccine is a cautionary tale about the crony capitalist rush for a Covid-19 vaccine.
How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?
Peter Doshi, a University of Maryland pharmacy professor, in his 2013 British Medical Journalarticle “Influenza: marketing vaccine by marketing disease” writes, “Promotion of influenza vaccines is one of the most visible and aggressive public health policies today.”
In 1990, according to Doshi, “32 million doses of influenza vaccine were available in the United States.” For the coming 2020-21 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates, manufacturers will supply “between 194 million and 198 million doses of influenza vaccine.”
For some, this is government at work protecting the public health. For others, this is a case of government expanding the market for protecting vaccine manufacturers.
The CDC, Doshi writes, pledges “To base all public health decisions on the highest quality scientific data, openly and objectively derived.” With flu vaccines, this is hardly the case. The facts show, Doshi writes, that “although proponents employ the rhetoric of science, the studies underlying the policy are often of low quality, and do not substantiate officials’ claims.” Flu vaccines, Doshi continues, “might be less beneficial and less safe than has been claimed, and the threat of influenza appears overstated.”
Through the 1990s, the “at risk” population was the elderly, and promotion campaigns were aimed at them. Today CDC guidelines have expanded the “at risk” population and call for everyone older than six months to get the vaccine. Today, we are warned by the CDC, that “even healthy people can get the flu, and it can be serious.”
Fanciful claims are made for the effectiveness of the flu vaccine. Doshi reports on one study in the New England Journal of Medicine that found that flu vaccines reduce deaths from all causes by 48%. The study was funded by the National Vaccine Program Office and the CDC. Doshi argues this claim is “not credible” since influenza is estimated to cause only around 5% of all wintertime deaths.