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‘We can get you to the beach the next day’: Breast implant marketing plays on insecurities, minimizes risks

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  • This investigation is part of a global media collaboration with CBC News, Radio-Canada,Toronto Star and the Washington-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists that examined tens of thousands of medical devices and how they’re made, approved and monitored by regulators worldwide.
  • Learn more about your medical device by searching the CBC News database of Health Canada records.

The ailments listed on Nikki Carruthers’s medical chart read as follows: blackouts, memory loss, fainting, vomiting, thyroid problems, angina, hypertension, heart palpitations, high-blood pressure, migraines, chest pain, ulcers, depression, anxiety and exhaustion that keeps her in bed for at least 18 hours a day.

Carruthers, 29, had barely seen the inside of a doctor’s office until 2013, when she decided to get breast implants. The cascading health issues that followed have triggered dozens of hospital and doctor visits.

“My entire body was shutting down,” said the Winnipeg woman, who has been unable to work since July. “My throat is burning and [it] hurts to swallow. It feels like someone is sitting on my chest when I try to breathe.”

The promotional machine driving the $1-billion global breast implant industry runs on tastefully lit, aspirational images of perfect bodies, glowing testimonials and inspirations from celebrities — but in many cases provides little mention of the potential risks, a Toronto Star/CBC Marketplace investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, has found.

Breast augmentation is the most popular cosmetic surgery in the world, with 10 million women opting for breast implants during the past decade. Most have not reported adverse health issues, and some studies point to high satisfaction rates. Manufacturers stress that there have been many studies over the years that have demonstrated that their products are safe.

A Marketplace producer, posing as a patient who wanted breast implants, visited three Toronto plastic surgeons with a hidden camera to learn how they explain and market the procedure. (CBC)

But Carruthers is among the increasing number of women across Canada who have suffered health complications they believe are associated with their breast implants. They also believe they were misled by surgeons who reassured them that the health concerns of the 1990s were addressed more than a decade ago.

There remains no cause-and-effect directly linking implants with some of the symptoms described, but research has linked textured implants to a rare cancer known as breast implant-associated anaplastic large cell lymphoma, or BIA-ALCL.

Since Monday, the ICIJ has heard from more than 540 women responding to an online callout for responses to the global series of stories on breast implant health issues. Among the 45 Canadians who responded are women complaining of infections, hair loss, body inflammation, muscle weakness, trouble breathing, neurological issues, suicidal thoughts and implant rupture.

The promotion of implants

A review of 25 websites belonging to plastic surgeons in the Toronto area show plenty of alluring images but little detail on the adverse outcomes associated with breast augmentation.

Undercover visits to three Toronto plastic surgeons by a CBC Marketplace producer — who posed as a prospective patient — revealed sales techniques, some of which a leading medical ethicist called “very problematic.”

At age 23, unhappy with her body image, Carruthers came up with $6,300 — financed through a line of credit — for breast augmentation.

It seemed safe and easy. She said she was told little about the medical risks beyond the standard warnings associated with any surgery.

“It was made to seem like getting a haircut,” she said. “He told me there were only very minor cosmetic risks which he would fix in a touch-up procedure should something go wrong.”

Nikki Carruthers explains why she initially decided to get breast implants:

Nikki Carruthers explains why she decided to get breast implants 0:55

The message on the plastic surgery websites she visited were full of promises of confidence and perfection.

Any excitement about her new body was soon undermined by health problems, said Carruthers, who had the implant surgery in 2013.

Just over a year later, she had a second surgery to relieve severe pain in her chest. The implants had bottomed out and dropped too low on her chest.

While informed consent for each separate medical procedure is not actively enforced by the province or a provincial physician watchdog, it is a principle intended to ensure that patients are fully aware of the potential outcomes.

There is no standard script plastic surgeons use to inform patients of the risks. Each physician has their own approach.

‘You do need to understand’

When the Marketplace producer asked about recovery time at the three clinics she visited, the answers ranged from 24 hours to six weeks.

“We can get you out to dinner the night after surgery, we can get you to the beach the next day,” said Dr. Mahmood Kara.

When asked to explain the specific technique, Kara replied: “You don’t have to understand, just need to know that I can deliver, and I’ve done it on thousands of patients.”

University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman says that response fails to provide the understanding necessary for the patient to have informed consent.

“That would worry me, because you do need to understand,” said Bowman. “Ethically and legally … you have to have a capable patient and she needs to fully understand and appreciate all of the risks.”

University of Toronto bioethicist Kerry Bowman says it’s very important for patients to understand all the risks of any surgery, including something cosmetic, like breast augmentation. (Dave Macintosh/CBC)

The presentation of medical risks associated with breast implants are also of concern.

During the consultation, Kara outlines what he called the common risks of the surgery, such as bleeding, infection and internal scarring around the implant, known as capsular contracture.

But on his website, Kara calls it a “myth” that implants leak into the body if they are ruptured.

Dr. Jan Willem Cohen Tervaert, director of the rheumatology at the University of Alberta’s medical school and a co-author of several studies detailing connections between breast implants and autoimmune illnesses, says that advice is challenged by research.

“There are plenty publications demonstrating leaking of silicone with new implants,” he said.

In a list outlining the risks of implants, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration also notes silicone gel from ruptured devices can migrate away from the breast.

Kara declined repeated interview requests.

Consent forms can be hard to get

At the clinic of plastic surgeon Dr. Martin Jugenburg — known as Dr. 6ix on his website — the journalist asked for a copy of the consent form that describes the procedures, surgical risks and post-op instructions that she would have to sign before making the decision and providing a $2,000 deposit to book the surgery.

“I don’t think I’m allowed to do that for some reason,” said a clinic nurse, though she later provided the consent form.

“I’m amazed that there’s so much pushback on getting the consent forms,” Bowman said after reviewing Marketplace’s hidden-camera footage. “I think asking to pay in advance is very problematic from an ethical point of view.”

More than 10 million women worldwide have received breast implants over the last decades. But some patients have since had the devices removed, saying they have suffered health complications they believe are associated with their breast implants. (CBC)

In a written response, Jugenburg said his clinic does not require patients to pay in order to view or receive consent forms.

“This was not clear during your researcher’s visit, and as a result of your feedback, I made sure in the future there will be no confusion.”

At a third Toronto clinic visited by Marketplace, Dr. Sean Rice spent time describing the implant surgery itself. His nurse provided a lengthy consent form and told the producer she would need to take it home and read it, and then contact the clinic if she had questions or concerns.

Dr. Sean Rice spent time describing the implant surgery itself. (doctorseanrice.com)

In an email to Marketplace, Rice said, “I want to ensure all patients fully understand risks associated with their surgical procedure. I offer an opportunity to discuss the consent form after review to allow any followup questions before surgery. Patients deserve time to evaluate and question a consent from before endorsing.”

Bowman believes time for patients to reflect on the decision they are making is crucial, though there is no prescribed period outlined in college guidelines to physicians.

The Marketplace producer was offered a range of available surgery dates at the three clinics visited: 24 hours after the consultation, four days later, and a few weeks later.

Before-and-after photos

The overwhelming majority of plastic surgeons’ websites contain testimonials and “before-and-after” images that appear to breach provincial legislation and the policies of the Ontario College of Physicians and Surgeons.

“Where we have been alerted to the use of before-and-after photos in the past, we have held that they constitute testimonials in contravention of the regulation,” said college spokesperson Shae Greenfield, noting the regulator has penalized physicians for doing this.

Last year, the college cautioned Kara for using before-and-after photos in a magazine advertisement.

“Given his repeated breaches of advertising policy and regulation, the [college complaints’] committee was not satisfied that he would change his behaviour without further guidance,” the decision reads.

‘We can get you out to dinner the night after surgery,’ Dr. Mahmood Kara told a Marketplace journalist posing as a potential client interested in breast augmentation. (drkaraplasticsurgery.com)

But prominently featured on his website today are more than 260 before-and-after photos of plastic surgery procedures.

Jugenburg is currently facing a disciplinary hearing before the college, which alleges he committed professional misconduct for advertising methods, including permitting a film crew into a surgical procedure without the patient’s consent, making “improper” use of her images and posting “pre- and post-operative images of her on his social media accounts without her consent,” along with “pressuring her to follow and contribute to his social media accounts.”

In a written response, Jugenburg said the allegations are “denied and being defended.”

The use of before-and-after photos is “widespread” in medicine, he wrote, and the images provide “pertinent information to the public, as patients increasingly perform their own research on the internet, demand more transparency … and more self-directed decision-making ability.”

Dr. Martin Jugenburg — known as Dr. 6ix, an allusion to The Six, a popular nickname for Toronto. (torontosurgery.com)Jugenburg’s website currently has more than 250 before-and-after images for a variety of plastic surgery procedures.

Some plastic surgeons shun the practice of posting before-and-after images.

Toronto plastic surgeon Dr. Leila Kasrai explains on her website why she does doesn’t: “Due to the advertising regulations of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario imposed on all doctors in Ontario, we cannot display photos and testimonials of our patients.”

Opting for an explant

Worsening symptoms eventually led Nikki Carruthers to undergo a third breast surgery last September: This time to have her implants removed although she never received a clear diagnosis that attributed her symptoms to the implants.

When they came out, a discovery: The right implant had ruptured and both implants showed capsular contracture, according to an analysis of the removed implants by Pierre Blais, a former Health Canada senior advisor and chemist who now runs an Ottawa company that tests the devices.

“This type of rupture is common and indicates … material fatigue,” his report reads. “It is not the outcome of trauma or accidental … damage.”

Chemist Pierre Blais analyzed Nikki Carruthers’ implants for CBC’s Marketplace. (Dave Macintosh/CBC)

In an interview, Blais said Carruthers’ right implant rupture, which “broke into four parts,” is hardly unique.

“When you look at the instructions for use for a product like this … it says a rupture may happen,” said Blais. “It’s not really right. They should say a rupture will happen — it depends how long you have it.”

Carruthers said Blais’s findings were a vindication. “My instincts were correct. I was not going insane.”

Since her explant, Carruthers said a liver tumour has shrunk. But she has yet to return to work due to pain and fatigue, cognitive impairment, tremors and autoimmune symptoms.

“I can only imagine how many women are out there right now … having no idea what’s wrong, feeling hopeless and crazy,” she said. “The whole thing makes me sick to my stomach every time I think about it.”

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Sweet! Here are 7 reasons to eat sweet potatoes

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(Natural News) Sweet potatoes may not be as popular as regular potatoes, which is too bad — since they’re packed with vitamins and minerals. One cup of sweet potatoes can provide more than 100 percent of the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also rich in vitamin C, dietary fiber, and manganese. Both purple and orange varieties contain antioxidants that can protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.

Eating sweet potatoes is beneficial for your health

Sweet potatoes are brimming with micronutrients and antioxidants —  making them useful to your health. Below is a list of reasons why you should incorporate sweet potatoes into your diet.

They improve brain function

The purple variety of sweet potato contains anthocyanins. Anthocyanins are known for their anti-inflammatory properties. Studies have revealed that anthocyanins are effective at improving cognitive function. Moreover, the results suggest that purple yams can help protect against memory loss. Antioxidants from the purple variety safeguard the brain against damage from free radicals and inflammation.

They aid digestion

Sweet potatoes are rich in dietary fiber. This macronutrient prevents constipation, diarrhea, and bloating by adding bulk and drawing water to the stool. In addition, fiber keeps a healthy balance in the gut by promoting the growth of good bacteria.

They slow down aging

The beta-carotene in orange sweet potatoes can help reduce damage caused by prolonged sun exposure. This is especially true for people diagnosed with erythropoietic protoporphyria and other photosensitive diseases. Sweet potatoes also contain antioxidants that protect against free radical damage. Free radicals are not only linked to diseases but also premature aging.

They boost the immune system

Orange and purple sweet potatoes are loaded with a good number of antioxidants that help protect the body from harmful molecules that cause inflammation and damage DNA. This, in turn, protects the body from chronic diseases like cancer and heart disease.

They can prevent cancer

Eating sweet potatoes can help protect against various types of cancers. The compounds in sweet potatoes restrict the development of cancer cells. Test tube studies have shown that anthocyanins can prevent cancers in the bladder, breast, colon, and stomach.

They lower blood sugar

Despite its relatively high glycemic index, studies have shown that the regular intake of sweet potatoes can help lower blood sugar, thanks to the presence of dietary fiber. While fiber falls under carbohydrates, it is digested differently, compared to starchy and sugary forms of carbohydrates. Interestingly, insulin doesn’t process fiber (unlike other types which get turned into glucose), and it only passes through the digestive tract.

They promote healthy vision

Orange sweet potatoes are rich in a compound called beta-carotene, an antioxidant which transforms into vitamin A in the body. Adequate intake of vitamin A promotes eye health. Conversely, deficiencies in vitamin A have been linked to a particular type of blindness called xerophthalmia.

Sweet potatoes are easy to incorporate into your everyday meals. They are best prepared boiled but can also be baked, roasted, or steamed — they can even replace other carbohydrates such as rice, potatoes, and toast. (Related: Understanding the phytochemical and nutrient content of sweet potato flours from Vietnam.)

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Frostbite: What it is and how to identify, treat it

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Manitoba’s temperature has plummeted to its coldest level this season, triggering warnings about the extreme risk of frostbite.

Oh, we know it’s cold. We can feel Jack Frost nipping at our noses. But what about when he gnaws a little harder — what exactly does “frostbite” mean?

People tend to underestimate the potential for severe injuries in the cold, says the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority. We laugh off the sting of the deep freeze, rub our hands back from the brink of numbness and wear our survival proudly like a badge.

That’s because, in most cases, frostbite can be treated fairly easily, with no long-term effects.

But it can also lead to serious injury, including permanent numbness or tingling, joint stiffness, or muscle weakness. In extreme cases, it can lead to amputation.

Bitter cold can cause frostbite in just minutes. Here’s how to recognize the warning signs and treat them. 0:59

Here’s a guide to identifying the first signs, how to treat them, and when to seek medical help.

What is frostbite and frostnip?

Frostbite is defined as bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and colour in affected areas. It most often affects the nose, ears, cheeks, chin, fingers or toes — those areas most often exposed to the air.

Cooling of the body causes a narrowing of the blood vessels, slowing blood flow. In temperatures below –4 C, ice crystals can form in the skin and the tissue just below it.

Frostnip most commonly affects the hands and feet. It initially causes cold, burning pain, with the area affected becoming blanched. It is easy to treat and with rewarming, the area becomes reddened.

Frostbite is the acute version of frostnip, when the soft tissue actually freezes. The risk is particularly dangerous on days with a high wind chill factor. If not quickly and properly treated, it can lead to the loss of tissues or even limbs. 

Signs of frostbite

Health officials call them the four P’s:

  • Pink: Skin appears reddish in colour, and this is usually the first sign.
  • Pain: The cold becomes painful on skin.
  • Patches: White, waxy-feeling patches show when skin is dying.
  • Prickles: Affected areas feel numb or have reduced sensation.

Symptoms can also include:

  • Reduced body temperature.
  • Swelling.
  • Blisters.
  • Areas that are initially cold, hard to the touch.

Take quick action

If you do get frostbite, it is important to take quick action.

  • Most cases of frostbite can be treated by heating the exposed area in warm (not hot) water.
  • Immersion in warm water should continue for 20-30 minutes until the exposed area starts to turn pink, indicating the return of blood circulation.
  • Use a warm, wet washcloth on frostbitten nose or earlobes.
  • If you don’t have access to warm water, underarms are a good place to warm frostbitten fingers. For feet, put them against a warm person’s skin.
  • Drink hot fluids such as hot chocolate, coffee or tea when warming.
  • Rest affected limbs and avoid irritation to the skin.
  • E​levate the affected limb once it is rewarmed.

Rewarming can take up to an hour and can be painful, especially near the end of the process as circulation returns. Acetaminophen or ibuprofen may help with the discomfort.

Do not …

There are a number of things you should avoid:

  • Do not warm the area with dry heat, such as a heating pad, heat lamp or electric heater, because frostbitten skin is easily burned.
  • Do not rub or massage affected areas. This can cause more damage.
  • Do not drink alcohol.
  • Do not walk on your feet or toes if they are frozen.
  • Do not break blisters.

Seek immediate medical attention

While you can treat frostbite yourself if the symptoms are minor — the skin is red, there is tingling — you should seek immediate medical attention at an emergency department if:

  • The exposed skin is blackened.
  • You see white-coloured or grey-coloured patches.
  • There is severe pain or the area is completely numb.
  • The skin feels unusually firm and is not sensitive to touch after one hour of rewarming.
  • There are large areas of blistering.
  • There is a bluish discolouration that does not resolve with rewarming.

Be prepared

The best way to avoid frostbite is to be prepared for the weather in the first place.

Wear several loose layers of clothing rather than a single, thick layer to provide good insulation and keep moisture away from your skin.

The outer garment should breathe but be waterproof and windproof, with an inner thermal layer. Retain body heat with a hat and scarf. Mittens are warmer than gloves because they keep the fingers together.

Be sure your clothing protects your head, ears, nose, hands and feet, especially for children.

Wind chill and frostbite rates

Wind chill: 0 to –9.
Frostbite risk: Low.

Wind chill: –28 to –39.
Frostbite risk: Moderate.

Exposed skin can freeze in 10-30 minutes

Wind chill: –40 to –47.
Frostbite risk: High.

Exposed skin can freeze in five to 10 minutes.

Wind chill: –48 to –54.
Frostbite risk: Very High.

Exposed skin can freeze in two to five minutes.

Wind chill: –55 and lower.
Frostbite risk: Extremely High.

Exposed skin can freeze in less than two minutes.
 

NOTE: In sustained winds over 50 km/h, frostbite can occur faster than indicated.

Source: Environment Canada

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Awkward Flu Jabs Attempted at Golden Globes

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In what can only be described as a new level of propaganda, hosts Andy Samberg and Sandra Oh featured a flu shot stunt during the 76th Golden Globe Awards ceremony. They told the audience to roll up their sleeves, as they would all be getting flu shots, while people in white coats stormed down the aisles, syringes in hand.

Most of the audience looked thoroughly uneasy at the prospect of having a stranger stick them with a needle in the middle of an awards show. But perhaps the worst part of the scene was when Samberg added that anti-vaxxers could put a napkin over their head if they wanted to be skipped, basically suggesting that anyone opposed to a flu shot deserved to be branded with a proverbial scarlet letter.

The flu shots, for the record, were reportedly fake,1 nothing more than a bizarre gag that left many people stunned by the Globe’s poor taste in turning a serious medical choice into a publicity gimmick.

Flu Shot Stunt Reeks of Desperation

Whoever came up with the idea to turn the Golden Globes into a platform for a public health message probably thought it was ingenious, but the stunt only serves as a seemingly desperate attempt to make flu shots relevant and in vogue. During the 2017 to 2018 flu season, only 37 percent of U.S. adults received a flu shot, a 6 percent drop from the prior season.2

“To improve flu vaccination coverage for the 2018-19 flu season, health care providers are encouraged to strongly recommend and offer flu vaccination to all of their patients,” the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) wrote. “People not visiting a provider during the flu season have many convenient places they can go for a flu vaccination.”3

Yet, perhaps the decline in people choosing to get vaccinated has nothing to do with convenience and everything to do with their dismal rates of efficacy. In the decade between 2005 and 2015, the influenza vaccine was less than 50 percent effective more than half of the time.4

The 2017/2018 flu vaccine was a perfect example of this trend. The overall adjusted vaccine effectiveness against influenza A and B virus infection was just 36 percent.5

Health officials blamed the flu season’s severity on the dip in vaccination rates, but as Dr. Paul Auwaerter, clinical director of the division of infectious diseases at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, told USA Today, “[I]t is also true that the vaccine was not as well matched against the strains that circulated.”6

But bringing flu shots to the Golden Globes, and calling out “anti-vaxxers,” is nothing more than “medical care, by shame,” noted Dr. Don Harte, a chiropractic activist in California. “But it was entertaining, in a very weird way, including the shock and disgust of some of the intended victims, notably [Willem Dafoe],” he said, adding:7

“This Hollywood publicity stunt for the flu vaccine is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever seen from celebrities. But it does go with the flu shot itself, which is, perhaps, the stupidest of all the vaccines available.”

Did 80,000 People Really Die From the Flu Last Year?

The CDC reported that 79,400 people died from influenza during the 2017/2018 season, which they said “serves as a reminder of how severe seasonal influenza can be.”8 It’s important to remember, however, that the 80,000 deaths figure being widely reported in the media is not actually all “flu deaths.”

According to the CDC, “We look at death certificates that have pneumonia or influenza causes (P&I), other respiratory and circulatory causes (R&C), or other nonrespiratory, noncirculatory causes of death, because deaths related to flu may not have influenza listed as a cause of death.”9

As for why the CDC doesn’t base flu mortality estimates only on death certificates that list influenza, they noted, “Seasonal influenza may lead to death from other causes, such as pneumonia, congestive heart failure or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease … Additionally, some deaths — particularly among the elderly — are associated with secondary complications of seasonal influenza (including bacterial pneumonias).”10

In other words, “flu deaths” are not just deaths directly caused by the influenza virus, but also secondary infections such as pneumonia and other respiratory diseases, as well as sepsis.11

According to the CDC, most of the deaths occurred among those aged 65 years and over, a population that may already have preexisting conditions that makes them more susceptible to infectious diseases. As Harte said of annual flu deaths, “[M]ost if not all, I would assume, are of people who are already in very bad shape.12

CDC Claims Flu Vaccine Reduces Flu Deaths in the Elderly — But Does It?

Since people aged 65 and over are those most at risk from flu complications and death, the CDC has been vocal in their claims that the flu shot significantly reduces flu-related deaths among this population. The research, however, says otherwise.

Research published in 2005 found no correlation between increased vaccination rates among the elderly and reduced mortality. According to the authors, “Because fewer than 10 percent of all winter deaths were attributable to influenza in any season, we conclude that observational studies substantially overestimate vaccination benefit.”13

A 2006 study also showed that even though seniors vaccinated against influenza had a 44 percent reduced risk of dying during flu season than unvaccinated seniors, those who were vaccinated were also 61 percent less like to die before the flu season ever started.14

This finding has since been attributed to a “healthy user effect,” which suggests that older people who get vaccinated against influenza are already healthier and, therefore, less likely to die anyway, whereas those who do not get the shot have suffered a decline in health in recent months.

Journalist Jeremy Hammond summed up the CDC’s continued spreading of misinformation regarding the flu vaccine’s effectiveness in the elderly, as they continue to claim it’s the best way to prevent the flu:15

[T]here is no good scientific evidence to support the CDC’s claim that the influenza vaccine reduces hospitalizations or deaths among the elderly.

The types of studies the CDC has relied on to support this claim have been thoroughly discredited due to their systemic ‘healthy user’ selection bias, and the mortality rate has observably increased along with the increase in vaccine uptake — which the CDC has encouraged with its unevidenced claims about the vaccine’s benefits, downplaying of its risks, and a marketing strategy of trying to frighten people into getting the flu shot for themselves and their family.”

Death of Vaccinated Child Blamed on Not Getting Second Dose

In January 2019, the state of Colorado reported the first child flu death of the 2018/2019 flu season — a child who had received influenza vaccination. But instead of highlighting the vaccine’s failure and clear limitations, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment blamed the death on the child being only “partially vaccinated.”

“It’s an unfortunate but important reminder of the importance of two doses of influenza vaccine for young children who are receiving influenza vaccine for the first time,” Dr. Rachel Herlihy, who is the state communicable disease epidemiologist, said in a news release.16 For those who aren’t aware, the CDC notes that one dose of flu shot may not be enough to protect against the flu. Instead, they state:17

“Children 6 months through 8 years getting vaccinated for the first time, and those who have only previously gotten one dose of vaccine, should get two doses of vaccine this season …

The first dose ‘primes’ the immune system; the second dose provides immune protection. Children who only get one dose but need two doses can have reduced or no protection from a single dose of flu vaccine.”

Not only may the flu vaccine fail to provide protection against the flu, but many people are not aware that other types of viruses are responsible for about 80 percent of all respiratory infections during any given flu season.18 The flu vaccine does not protect against or prevent any of these other types of respiratory infections causing influenza-like illness (ILI) symptoms.

The chance of contracting actual type A or B influenza, caused by one of the three or four influenza virus strains included in the vaccine, is much lower compared to getting sick with another type of viral or bacterial infection during the flu season.

Does Flu Vaccine Increase the Risk of Influenza Infection, Contribute to Vaccine Shedding?

There are serious adverse effects that can come along with annual flu vaccination, including potentially lifelong side effects such as Guillain Barré syndrome and chronic shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA). They may also increase your risk of contracting more serious flu infections, as research suggests those who have been vaccinated annually may be less protected than those with no prior flu vaccination history.19

Research presented at the 105th International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego also revealed that children who get seasonal flu shots are more at risk of hospitalization than children who do not. Children who had received the flu vaccine had three times the risk of hospitalization as children who had not. Among children with asthma, the risk was even higher.20

There’s also the potential for vaccine shedding, which has taken on renewed importance with the reintroduction of the live virus vaccine FluMist during the 2018/2019 season. While the CDC states that the live flu virus in FluMist is too weak to actually give recipients the flu, research has raised some serious doubts that this is the case.

One recent study revealed not only that influenza virus may be spread via simple breathing (i.e., no sneezing or coughing required) but also that repeated vaccination increases the amount of virus released into the air.21

MedImmune, the company that developed FluMist, is aware that the vaccine sheds vaccine-strain virus. In its prescribing information, they describe a study on the transmission of vaccine-strain viruses from vaccinated children to nonvaccinated children in a day care setting.

In 80 percent of the FluMist recipients, at least one vaccine-strain virus was isolated anywhere from one to 21 days following vaccination. They further noted, “One placebo subject had mild symptomatic Type B virus infection confirmed as a transmitted vaccine virus by a FluMist recipient in the same playgroup.”22

Are There Other Ways to Stay Healthy During Flu Season?

Contrary to the CDC’s and Golden Globe’s claims that flu vaccinations are a great way to prevent flu, other methods exist to help you stay healthy during the flu season and all year, and they’re far safer than annual flu vaccination. Vitamin D testing and optimization have been shown to cut your risk of respiratory infections, including colds and flu, in half if you are vitamin D deficient, for instance.23,24

In my view, optimizing your vitamin D levels is one of the absolute best respiratory illness prevention and optimal health strategies available. Influenza has also been treated with high-dose vitamin C,25 and taking zinc lozenges at the first sign of respiratory illness can also be helpful.

Following other basic tenets of health, like eating right, getting sound sleep, exercising and addressing stress are also important, as is regularly washing your hands.

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